Deco in Dayton – Japanese Deco Exhibit Comes to Western Ohio
By Meg Berno

Deco in Dayton – Japanese Deco Exhibit Comes to Western Ohio

Bold colors and geometric designs mark nearly every one of the 200 pieces in “Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945,” the latest traveling exhibit to visit the Dayton Art Institute (DAI).

The collection highlights the impact of art deco on Japanese culture, which according to the DAI, following World War I, “witnessed the rise of film, the advent of skyscrapers, leisurely air travel, and the modern girl with her cigarette, short hair and cropped skirts. With the machine age came an emphasis on speed. The art world responded with art deco.”

Admittedly, I expected the exhibit to focus on bold printed magazine covers, sculptures and canvas prints, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Japan’s art deco influence extended to nearly every aspect of life in the era, including matchbox covers, braziers, vases, incense burners and even kimonos.  

Despite the bold nature of the genre, it is clear that Japanese artists worked to incorporate the audacious designs without sacrificing the traditional usefulness of the object, like the Cup and Saucer from a Chocolate Service, Vase with Neck Rings and Table Clock in Abstract Form.

Perhaps my favorite of the exhibit’s seven galleries was the room dedicated to the cosmopolitan modern girl (often referred to as a moga). Likened to an American flapper, Japanese mogas wore short hair and skirts, bright lips and were rarely seen without a cigarette. Bucking the long-perceived “good wife and mother” mindset, these women were bold in their style and fashion choices. The gallery highlighted their art deco smoking sets and matchboxes, as well as several screens and paintings featuring these women.  

Additional galleries in the exhibit include:

  • Art on the Street, highlighting posters, sheet music and other items seen in store windows of the era
  • Art of the Home, featuring carpets, clocks and dishes
  • Art of the Individual, including kimonos, pens and hair accessories
  • Art of the Exhibition Hall, focusing on national art exhibitions of the era
  • Nationalism, including images with rising suns and sunbursts, phoenixes and dragons
  • Deco in Dayton, highlighting regional Art Deco architecture

Deco Japan is on tour from Art Services International in Alexandria, Va., and is the first traveling exhibition outside Tokyo dedicated to Japanese Art Deco. Arts enthusiasts can experience the exhibit through January 25, 2015, at the Dayton Art Institute.


Curious to learn more as you’re planning your visit to Deco Japan? Check out highlights from several Dayton media outlets:

About the Author

Meg Berno is a freelance writer and Marketing Coordinator with the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau. Meg graduated from Miami University with a degree in Strategic Communications. Outside of work, Meg enjoys photography, writing and finding new places to explore in Ohio.