Bert Winther-Tamaki

picture of Bert  Winther-Tamaki

Professor, Art History
School of Humanities

Professor, Visual Studies

PH.D., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Fax: (949) 824-2464

University of California, Irvine
Department of Art History
2210 Humanities Gateway
Mail Code: 2785
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
History of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Art and Visual Culture. Ecocriticism. Asian American Art. History of interactions between Japanese and American art worlds. Art and globalization.
Research Abstract
My work focuses on the role of the visual arts in the construction of modern meanings of materials, especially in twentieth-century Japan.

I am currently preparing a book titled TSUCHI: Earthy Materials in Contemporary Japanese Art. This study investigates potter's clay, top-soil, landfill, beach sand, and riverbank pebbles as they were manifested in ceramics, photography, and installation art in Japan since the 1950s. Works of art stimulated a wide-ranging practice of contemplating earth, whether from fear of industrial and radioactive contamination or nostalgia for ancestral fertile soil.

Much of my work has focused on artists whose positions partly outside Japan complicated the artistic identities they developed in various media: Sam Francis, Hasegawa Saburo, Isamu Noguchi, Minoru Yamasaki, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Fujita Tsuguji. My first book, Art in the Encounter of Nations: Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years (2001) examines the contribution of discourses about abstract ceramic sculpture, avant-garde calligraphy, abstract paintings, and place designs to modern Japanese cultural identity. My second book Maximum Embodiment: Yoga, the "Western Painting" of Japan, 1910-1955 (2012) investigates Japanese appropriations of the the European medium of oil-on-canvas painting. In two articles on Isamu Noguchi, I consider the different cultural significations of a range of sculptural and design materials (clay, stone, metal, plastic) in his thinking and practice.
Awards and Honors
CAA Millard Meiss Publication Grant. May 2021.
Dean's Honoree for Teaching Excellence, Celebration of Teaching. 2020.
TSUCHI: Earthy Materials in Contemporary Japanese Art. University of Minnesota Press, Forthcoming: 2022.
“Japanese Views of the Void in Sam Francis’s Painting during the ‘Informel Whirlwind,’” In Focus: Around the Blues 1957, 1962–3 by Sam Francis. (London: Tate Museum, July 2019). Online publication:
“Earth Flavor (Tsuchi aji) in Postwar Japanese Ceramics,” Japan Review: Journal of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, no. 32 (2019): 151-191.
“Modernist Passions for ‘Old Japan’: Hasegawa Saburo and Isamu Noguchi in 1950,” Changing and Unchanging Things: Noguchi and Hasegawa in Postwar Japan, Dakin Hart and Mark Johnson, eds., Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, University of California Press, 2019.
“Remediated Ink: The Debt of Modern and Contemporary Asian Ink Aesthetics to Non-Ink Media,” Getty Research Journal, no.10 (January 2018): 121-148.
“The Ligneous Aesthetic of Postwar Sosaku Hanga (‘Creative Prints’) and American Perspectives on the Modern Japanese Culture of Wood,” Archives of Asian Art, vol.66, no. 2. Fall 2016.
“Japanese Modernist Artists and Designers at Expo 67 in Montreal” in Japan/ America: Points of Contact, 1876-1970, ed. by Christopher Reed. Ithaca, NY: Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum, Cornell University. Fall 2016.
“Six Episodes of Convergence Between Indian, Japanese, and Mexican Art from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present,” Review of Japanese Culture and Society vol.26 (2014): 13-32.
Commensurable Distinctions: Intercultural Negotiations of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture, special issue of Review of Japanese Culture and Society (Josai University) Co-Author of Introduction and Guest Co-Editor with Kenichi Yoshida (pp.1-12). Twelve essays and six commissioned English translations of excerpts of Japanese art historical texts. vol. 26, 2014.
“The Woody Rustic Quality of Postwar Japanese Prints Admired by Americans” in Symphony of Color and Wind: The World of Uchima Ansei/ Shikisai to kaze no shinfoni—Uchima Ansei no sekai Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum. (October 2014): 156-158 (English): 120 (Japanese summary).
“Kitagawa Tamiji: Painting in Pursuit of Pigmented Knowledge of Self and Other,” Archives of Asian Art, vol.63, no. 2. (2013): 189-207.
“Sisters Frightened by a Whale: Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Choice as an Arbiter of Beauty in America” in Ishii korekushon kenkyu: Kuniyoshi Yasuo, 2 [Ishii Collection Studies: Yasuo Kuniyoshi, 2] (Tsukuba, Japan: Faculty of Art & Design, University of Tsukuba, 2013): 28-39 (Japanese), 71-86 (English).
“A Sculptor’s Brush with Ink: From the Flight of the Dragon to the Pool of the Inkstone” in Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930 (New York: The Noguchi Museum; 5 Continents Editions, 2013): 95-107.
“Yoga: The Western Painting, National Painting, and Global Painting of Japan” in Jordan Sand, Alan Tansman, and Dennis Washburn, eds. Working Words: New Approaches to Japanese Studies (Berkeley: Center for Japanese Studies, 2012) http: // Republished in Review of Japanese Culture & Society vol. XXV (December 2013), 127-136.
“From Resplendent Signs to Heavy Hands: Japanese Painting in War and Defeat, 1937-1952” in J.Thomas Rimer, ed. Since Meiji: Perspectives on the Japanese Visual Arts, 1868-2000 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2012): 124-143.
“Overtly, Covertly, or Not at All: Putting ‘Japan’ in Japanese American Painting” in C.Mills, L.Glazer, A.Goerlitz, eds. East-West Interchange in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012): 112-125.
Maximum Embodiment: Yôga, the “Western Painting” of Japan, 1910-1955. University of Hawai’i Press, January 2012.
“To Put On A Big Face: The Globalist Stance of Okamoto Taro’s Tower of the Sun for the Japan World Exposition, 1970,” Review of Japanese Culture and Society XXIII (Josai University, Saitama, Japan) (December 2011): 81-101.
“The ‘Oriental Guru’ in the Modern Artist: Asian Spiritual and Performative Aspects of Postwar American Art,” in Shigemi Inaga, ed., Questioning Oriental Aesthetics and Thinking: Conflicting Visions of ‘Asia’ under the Colonial Empires; The 38th International Research Symposium (Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 2011): 321-336.
"The Asian Dimensions of Postwar Abstract Art: Calligraphy and Metaphysics" in Alexandra Munroe, ed. The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989 (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2009), pp.145-157.
"Global Consciousness in Yôga Self-Portraiture" in Jaynie Anderson, ed. Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration, Convergence: the Proceedings of the 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art. (Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University Publishing, 2009), pp.847-851.
"Asian Possessions of the Cubist Body: 'Home from Home'" Cubism in Asia; Unbounded Dialogues, International Symposium Report ed. by Yasuko Furuichi. (Tokyo: Japan Foundation, 2006), pp.304-311.
"Oriental Coefficient: The Role of China in the Japanization of Yôga" Modern Chinese Literature & Culture 18:1 (Summer 2006), pp.85-119.
Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics: A Close Embrace of the Earth co-author with Louise Cort. Washington, D.C.: The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
"Oil Painting in Postsurrender Japan: Reconstructing Subjectivity through Deformation of the Body" Monumenta Nipponica vol.58, no.3 (Autumn 2003), pp.347-396.
Art in the Encounter of Nations: Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001.
"Stone Pied-à-Terre and Space-Age Steel: Isamu Noguchi and the Credo of Truth to Material" in Isamu Noguchi, Sculptural Design (Weil am Rhein, Germany: Vitra Design Museum, 2001), pp.186- 218.
"Minoru Yamasaki: Contradictions of Scale in the Career of the Nisei Architect of the World’s Largest Building" Amerasia Journal. vol.26, no.3 (Winter 2001), pp.162-188.
"Yagi Kazuo: The Admission of the Nonfunctional Object into the Japanese Pottery World" Journal of Design History vol.12, no.2, (June 1999), pp.123- 141.
Yukinori Yanagi; Image, Nation & Transnation. Co-Editor, primary author, with essays by graduate students of the Visual Studies Ph.D program. CD Rom. University of California, Irvine. 1998.
"Embodiment/Disembodiment in Japanese Painting During the Fifteen Year War" Monumenta Nipponica vol.52, no.2 (Summer 1997), pp.145- 180.
“Mark Tobey, White Writing for a Janus-Faced America,” Word & Image vol.13, no.1 (January-March 1997), pp.77-91.
“The Rejection of Isamu Noguchi's Hiroshima Cenotaph: A Japanese American Artist in Occupied Japan,” Art Journal vol.53, no.4 (Winter 1994), pp.23-27.
Residency Fellowship, Art and Materiality, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, September 2015 - June 2016
Visiting Research Scholar, International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), Kyoto, Japan, January – December, 2017.
Professional Societies
College Art Association
Association of Asian Studies
Japanese Art History Forum
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