アブストラクトパターン [Abusutorakuto Patān = abstract pattern]
Kyōto-shi : Unsōdō, Shōwa 5 . First and only edition. Publisher’s portfolio of green papered boards with cloth spine (rubbed), with title and pictorial inlay, 395 x 280 mm, colophon tipped-in to verso of lower board. Preface sheet, foxed as usual, printed red rule to text. 32 colour plates (measuring 385 x 265 mm), numbered in arabic numerals and captioned in Japanese characters, printed with colour stencils or chromolithography, occasional light foxing as usual, a couple of light creases to a couple of plate margins, (plate 14 trimmed to border and laid on card), a very good set of a rare work.
A complete set of geometric art deco patterns by modernist Japanese graphic designer Mizuki Heitarō, inspired by Verneuil’s Kaléidoscope.
Abusutorakuto Patān, published by famous Kyoto-based publisher Unsōdō at the start of the Shōwa period, is an ambitious work inspired by Kaléidoscope, ornements abstraits; quatre-vingt-sept motifs en vingt planches (Paris : A. Levy, ), a book of pochoir plates of art deco designs by Ad. Verneuil and M. P. Verneuil. Japanese designer Mizuki studied at the Graphic Design Department of the Kyoto Institute of Technology, graduating in 1908. He was a talented student who, while studying traditional designs, also created modern patterns. Posters, pottery, textiles, and other design-based items from overseas were often used as reference and learning materials at his college, and it is recorded that a copy of Kaléidoscope was purchased by the college in 1928. It is highly probable that this is where Mizuki first encountered the work that would inspire his masterpiece. Mizuki would later become a teacher at the college before transferring to Marubeni Shōten (currently Marubeni Corporation) in Osaka, a textile trading company where, in 1934, he became Head of Design.
Abusutorakuto Patān is a collection of 98 colour designs by Mizuki in 32 loose plates, with one leaf of text and one design mounted on the cover of the portfolio. Eight of the plates are colour-stencilled (numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11) and the remaining twenty-four are printed using chromolithography. The eight colour-stencilled plates were probably an attempt by Mizuki to mimic the pochoir technique employed in Kaléidoscope. The first 14 plates appear to use a slightly thicker, high-quality paper compared to the last 18 plates, which use a thinner and shinier paper. This may be because colour stencil printing required thicker paper to prevent buckling, or simply because of the Japanese publishing tradition (or rather, marketing technique) of showing the best prints first to catch the eyes of customers who only flicked through the first few pages.
Mizuki’s process in creating the designs for Abusutorakuto Patān is known to be highly mathematical due to Oka Tatsuya’s recent study of the motifs, colours, and layouts used by the artist (“Positioning the Characteristic of ‘Abstract Pattern’ Designed by Mizuki Heitaro”, Oka Tatsuya, Bulletin of Japanese Society for the Science of Design, Volume 61 Issue 2, 2014). In this detailed analysis the author claims that Mizuki’s work is one of the first attempts in Japan to adopt Art Deco and Constructivist designs. He includes a comparison between the designs in Kaléidoscope and Abusutorakuto Patān, arguing that Mizuki’s designs are not merely ‘copies’ of the Western work, but have been designed using ‘plane (geometric) division’ and are themselves products of Mizuki’s experiences in Kyoto and Osaka. The highlight of the study is an analysis of the mathematical processes used by Mizuki when devising his combinations of geometrical shapes. This process may be connected to the simultanist theories of Sonia and Robert Delaunay.
A rare and fascinating example of mathematically constructed Art Deco designs printed using experimental methods and inspired by techniques and patterns born from a Western response to Japanese graphic design and print technologies.
Two examples traced in institutional collections (Polimoda, Florence; and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence).