Japanese Design Archive Survey


Designers & Creators

Kiyoshi Awazu

Graphic Designer


Interview 01
Date: 23 July 2019, 16:00 - 18:30
Location: KEN
Interviewee: Ken Awazu (Producer, Representative of Awazu Design Office, President of KEN)
Interviewer: Yasuko Seki
Author: Yasuko Seki

Interview 02
Date: 9 July 2019, 11:00 - 12:00
Location: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Interviewee: Ritsuko Takahashi, Curator, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Interviewers: Yasuko Seki, Akiko Wakui
Author: Yasuko Seki



Kiyoshi Awazu

Graphic Designer

1929 Born in Tokyo.
1945 Self-taught in painting and design.
1955 Received the JAAC Award at the Japan Advertising Art Association Exhibition, and entered the design field in earnest.
1960 Formed "Metabolism" with architects and designers.
1967 Responsible for the basic concept of the Japan World Exposition (Osaka Expo), Expo Land, Japan Pavilion, etc.
1970 Silver Prize and Special Prize at the 3rd Warsaw International Poster Biennale.
1977 Invited artist for the Sao Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Exhibited "Graphism Trilogy".
1985 Produced the theme pavilion exhibition and colour plan for the International Science and Technology Exposition (Tsukuba Expo).
1990 Received the Medal with Purple Ribbon.
1997-1998 Major retrospective exhibition at national museums in four Polish cities.
2000 The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, The Mainichi Design Awards, Special Prize.
2009 Passed away.

Kiyoshi Awazu



Kiyoshi Awazu is a rare individual who did not receive specialised education in art or design, but learned from practice and earned a place in the design world. Graphic designer Mitsuo Katsui (who passed away in August 2019), who understood Awazu, said in a roundtable discussion in 2007. In a roundtable discussion in 2007, Mitsuo Katsui, a graphic designer who understood Awazu (he passed away in August 2019), said, "The fact that he did not study design education at the University of the Arts or the University of Education is a very significant factor in his life. He didn't learn from school curricula, but absorbed intensely on his own only what best suited his own field and his own humanity.
(Excerpt from "Kiyoshi Awazu Makurihiirogeru Document Book")
The origin of the Awazu generation's creativity was the burnt fields of the postwar era. However, as Japan rode the wave of rapid economic growth, the nature of graphic design and its expression began to diversify. These included Ikko Tanaka, who attempted to fuse Japanese aesthetics with commercial design; Mitsuo Katsui, who was among the first to focus on digital technology and explore the possibilities of expression; Kazumasa Nagai, who was at the centre of Nippon Design Center and explored unique expression; and Kohei Sugiura, who broke new ground with editing and Asian culture. In contrast to these men, Awazu continued to stand in the wilderness, sending out messages through graphism without overlooking the parts of the world that had not been illuminated by the light of rapid economic growth.
In his book, "The Discovery of Design", he wrote, "In the world of design in general, there is an increase in the number of 'riding horses' who jump on the bandwagon and the 'wild horses' who gather around them. There is a sense of security that life is easy and that there is more than enough to eat if you are on top of the trends. And often they get on top of their sense of security". Although written 50 years ago, it seems to foretell the modern society that values safety and security above all else and avoids risk. Throughout his life, Awazu has been committed to his individuality as an expressive artist, and it is precisely because he has been involved with so many people, written so many texts, challenged himself in various creative fields such as film and performance, and developed his own unique style of expression that his works continue to radiate an overwhelming enthusiasm. In this interview, we asked Ken Awazu, his son who is also a creator and is trying to reconsider Awazu's works, and Ritsuko Takahashi, a curator at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, about the Kiyoshi Awazu Archive.



Poster "Give Our Sea Back" (1955)
Editing and cover design for "Design Review" magazine, Fudosha (1966 - 1970)
Poster "GO!1500.000/ Let there be peace in Vietnam" Union of Citizens' Cultural Organizations (1966)
Poster, "Urgent International Rally in Support of the Struggle for Democracy in Korea", Executive Committee of the Urgent International Conference on Korean Affairs (1977)
"Graphism Trilogy" (1977)
"H²O EARTHMAN" (1993)
Poster "H²O EARTHMAN: Kiyoshi Awazu Exhibition" (1994)
Poster "HIROSHIMA-NAGASAKI 50 /'I'm here' "(1995)
Shuji Terayama Museum architecture, exhibition Concept (1997)
Poster "The 9th International Design Competition Call for Entries" International Design Exchange Association (1999)


Main Publications

"The Discovery of Design", San-ichi Shobo (1966)
"What Can Design Do", Tabata Shoten (1969)
"Awazu Kiyoshi Dezain Zue" (Kiyoshi Awazu Scrap Book), Tabata Shoten (1970)
"Dezain Yako" Chikuma Shobo (1974)
"Thinking Eye" Kawade Shobo Shinsha (1975)
"Abe Sada, Showa 11 nen no Onna" (Abe Sada: Woman in the 11th Year of the Showa Era), coauthored by Taro Ii and Kunio Hosaka, Tabata Shoten (1976)
"The Collected Works of Kiyoshi Awazu", 3 volumes, Kodansha (1978 - 1979)
"Gaudi Sanka" (A song in praise of Gaudi), Gendaikikakushitsu Publishers (1981)
"The Work of Kiyoshi Awazu, 1949-1989", Kawade Shobo Shinsha (1989)
"The Hieroglyphics of China B.C.1300-800",Tokyo Shoseki Co.,Ltd (2000)
"Awazu Kiyoshi Dezainsuru Kotoba" (Kiyoshi Awazu, Designing Words), Film Art (2005)
"Fushigi wo Medama ni Irete"( The Origin of Transversal Design, Kiyoshi Awazu), Gendaikikakushitsu Publishers (2006)
"Graphism in the Wilderness : Kiyoshi Awazu", Film Art (2007)
"Awazu Kiyoshi Makurihirogeru, Catalogue of the Collection, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2012)

Kiyoshi Awazu works

Interview 01

Interview 01: Ken Awazu (Producer, Representative of Awazu Design Office, President of KEN)

I was aiming to "change society" through design.

The Awazu Collection at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

 I visited the "AWAZU Kiyoshi: WHAT CAN DESIGN DO" exhibition at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (21 Museum) and was overwhelmed by the power of Awazu's works. First of all, I would like to ask you about the background to the collection of 3,000 Awazu works at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.


Awazu In 2006, Kiyoshi Awazu was already suffering from Alzheimer's disease, an illness that cannot be cured. When I looked at the huge number of works and materials that had been haphazardly stacked and half-neglected in the warehouse of his studio in Ikuta (Kawasaki), I felt strongly that the worldview and message he had been expressing since the end of the war should be returned to society. With this in mind, we collaborated with the museum to produce the exhibition "*ex-pose '06 Kiyoshi Awazu Design Mandala" at the P&P Gallery in the Printing Museum, where Awazu served as director. During the exhibition, Yutaka Mino, who was then the director of 21 Museum through an acquaintance, visited the exhibition and left that day without saying a word, but the next day he contacted me to donate all the works. Later, Ms Misato Fudo, then head of the curatorial section, also came to the exhibition, and talks progressed in a concrete manner. I think this was a result of the diversity, sociality, originality and modernity of Awazu's works resonating with us. I strongly felt that the value of art is found in the decisive 'encounter' between a person with such a keen eye and a work of art.


 How did you categorize and organize the nearly 3,000 works you donated?


Awazu From posters to sculptures and tableaux, before being sorted into smaller categories, they were transported by 4-tonne trucks four times in the presence of curatorial staff.


 Immediately after that, the exhibition " Graphism in the Wilderness: Kiyoshi Awazu Exhibition" was held from 2007 to 2008.


Awazu It was a spectacular exhibition, selecting 1,750 of the 2,788 donated items and simply displaying them without explanation or commentary, with no gaps in between. Misato Fudo's project had an amazing exhibition sense. It was a great exhibition, which was planned by Ms Misato Fudo with a great sense of display. It was a challenge to feel and think through Kiyoshi Awazu and to re-create with visitors a 'place' that deviated from the everyday, while at the same time expressing 21 Museum's stance in its entirety.
So many things happened as the largest exhibition room became the venue for the event. Literary and art critics Ichiro Hariu and Yusuke Nakahara, who had worked with Kiyoshi Awazu on many occasions, spoke about his theory of Kiyoshi Awazu. Skilled artists such as musicians Toshi Ichiyanagi, Akiko Samukawa, Hikaru Hayashi, Takehisa Kosugi, Kazue Sawai, Yosuke Yamashita, AYUO and performer Goji Hamada gave a series of unique concerts against the backdrop of countless images by Kiyoshi Awazu. The programme also included performances, film screenings, workshops and lectures by people who were closely associated with Kiyoshi Awazu, such as film directors Masahiro Shinoda and Toshio Matsumoto, designers Mitsuo Katsui, Kazumasa Nagai, Shigeo Fukuda and Katsuhiko Hibino, catalogue binding designer Shin Sobue, cultural anthropologist Masayuki Nishie, and art producer Fram Kitagawa. The event included 28 performances, film screenings, workshops, lectures and other events on 45 occasions.
In the absence of Kiyoshi Awazu himself, it was thanks to the artistic spirit and practical ability of the curator, Ms Fudo that a space for the creation of new art was realised with Awazu World as the starting point. However, there were not many sharp reactions from the contemporary art world and the media. As Ichiro Hariu says, this may be because there are many people in Japan who are establishment-oriented, but I think that is why this exhibition is talked about as a legendary exhibition among some people. For me personally, this was the start of my awakening to art, and it brought me back to the roots of my own aesthetic sense.


 What was the idea behind the title "Graphism in the Wilderness"?


Awazu Awazu experienced this at the age of 16, when he carried his uncle-in-law out of the Sumida River and cremated his corpse himself in downtown Tokyo, where everything had been destroyed in an air raid during the Pacific War. The scorched wilderness of the post-war period was his original landscape. After the war, while working at various jobs, he began to teach himself to paint. As he says in his essay, the city itself was a museum, and his teachers were the numerous posters, magazines and other reproductions that filled the city. This upbringing may have given him an eye for people who were not illuminated by the light of high-growth and for the people living on the streets, and this may have been the stance he maintained throughout his life. 'Street' was his starting point. However, most of Awazu's works are now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, which he said he did not like because of its somewhat high profile.


 Even after the exhibition, 21 Museum continues to develop the Awazu Collection and archives, and to conduct research.


Awazu Yes, we have a full-time archivist. There is a full-time archivist and the archive is being steadily developed. With regard to Awazu research, the project "Kiyoshi Awazu, Makrihirogel" was implemented over a five-year period from 2014. The curators of the 21 Museum excavated Awazu's creation and work from multiple perspectives and presented them in an exhibition as part of the collection's exhibition. The first exhibition was on performance, the second on visual communication, the third on architecture, the fourth on photography and the last on picture books.


 And in 2019, the exhibition "AWAZU Kiyoshi: WHAT CAN DESIGN DO" was held. How were you involved in this?


Awazu I supervised the planning of the exhibition. I still don't know what the position of supervisor is, but I was in charge of the concept of Exhibition Galleries 6 together with my most trusted graphic designer, Yosuke Jikuihara, who was in charge of the exhibition's graphic design. The three of us worked together on the exhibition concept, the selection of artworks and the exhibition structure, led by curator Ritsuko Takahashi.


 This was your second major exhibition, how did it differ from "Graphism in the Wilderness"?


Awazu The first priority of "Graphism in the Wilderness" was to have visitors experience the newly donated Awazu World in all its glory, and an overwhelming number of works (1,750) were exhibited. Although the exhibition may have lacked some explanations, the aim was to have visitors experience as many works as possible and to feel and think about the overwhelming energy of the designer Kiyoshi Awazu. This was not just another retrospective exhibition, but we wanted to question in real time who Awazu was and what his expressions and activities were in the modern era of 2019. We decided on the title "WHAT CAN DESIGN DO", which was suggested by Mr Takahashi, out of a strong desire for the exhibition to imagine the future and for the younger generation who do not know Kiyoshi Awazu to feel something about him. Ten years have passed since the first exhibition and the environment surrounding Japan and 21 Museum has changed. In light of this, Takahashi has reorganised the vast and chaotic collection of works into a structure that visually conveys the message to visitors encountering Awazu's work for the first time, with a theme for each exhibition room and quotations from his words. Thanks to this, visitors can feel the weight of each individual work.


 In the brochure, you state: In 2019, we can't help but ask again, "WHAT CAN DESIGN DO"? Excellent expression awakens the latent sensibility and imagination of those who confront it. Kiyoshi Awazu's expression was an attempt to transform the innumerable latent imagination into people's life activities and social power. The aim of this exhibition is to 'design' a 'place' for pursuing creative possibilities together with the audience.


Awazu In this day and age, it is not only design, but also art and music. Throughout his life, Awazu was not interested in design as a servant of the economy. He was not an explicitly 'anti-establishment' artist, but he said that 'design is about opening doors that are not open and exposing them one after another'. He had a philosophy and a belief in freedom that would not allow him to be a servant of capitalist society. This time, in order to talk about Awazu's uniqueness, we tried to collaborate with contemporary artists who embody a part of his spirit. In Galleries 6, where Mr Jikuhara and I were assigned, we presented "The Sutetaro *1 years: popular icons, Chichibu Avantist, Korean Art Prints".

In addition to the important motifs of Awazu's works, such as Abe Sada, sea turtles, seals impressions, fetuses, which Ichiro Hariu called "icons of the people," this room introduces the Chichibu Avantist group and Korean Minjung (People’s) Art Prints are also introduced here. The name of "the Sutetaro years" is a counter name to the first year of Reiwa (2019). It is precisely because Japan has become desensitised to totalitarian sentiments, such as covering up inconveniences, that we have chosen as our heroes "Sutetaro", who appears in Awazu's play, and "H²O EARTHMAN," a boy who claims to have appeared in his dreams. The former is a character based on an old Japanese folktale about a baby who is killed by his mother and finally resurrected, while the latter is a kind of deformed child born from the sea, a child of God, and perhaps a representation of Awazu himself. A three-metre long EARTHMAN monument was created for the exhibition and painted in the kakishibu colour, which was the colour of the discriminated people in the Edo period. This colour is the identity of the Kawaras, the colour of dried blood soaked into white cloth, and is one of the three colours found on the Kabuki theatre's rugs. In other words, this is design. It is also about exposing and making visible invisible emotions, traces that are being erased.

*1 "Sutetaro" is the only picture featuring an infant that Kiyoshi Awazu published in his lifetime.



 What kind of people are the Chichibu Avantist and Korean Minjung Art Prints?


Awazu Chichibu Avantist group member Shin Sasakubo is an extremely extraordinary guitarist and, in fact, a world-renowned musician. He has already released more than 30 music CDs. He spent four years in Peru learning the music of the Andes. This experience became his identity and the axis of his creativity. He has been doing fieldwork on the destruction of the environment, gods and culture in his home town of Chichibu, and has been using various techniques such as photography, film, printmaking, performance and installation to explore the themes he has discovered there. I consider him the most edgy artist of this period.
His recent theme is Mount Buko, which is revered as the mountain of the gods in Chichibu. Although this mountain was a sacred place for the people of Chichibu, it was demolished as a quarry in the shadow of rapid economic growth and has now lost its original form. He has turned it into a work of art and presented it at the Setouchi International Art Festival and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, among others. He has also published a CD book in collaboration with Kiyoshi Awazu's works, in which he composed and performed the "Sutetoro Suite" *2.
Four years ago, I produced the Kiyoshi Awazu exhibition Makrihirogeru Havana in Cuba and had him participate as a guitarist. I performed at the exhibition and in the open air, and also held a solo concert organised by the Cuban Cultural Office, which was praised in the genuine artistic country. Korean Minjung Art Prints are a 'folk art' that emerged alongside the Korean privatisation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The direct and powerful line expression of woodblock prints was seen as a 'weapon of resistance', and the artists resisted the oppression of the democratic movement through creative activities that risked their lives.
These prints belonged to the late Yang Ming-gi, a second-generation zainichi Korean who supported this popular movement from Japan. The exhibition was supervised by Mika Furukawa, a researcher of Korean art and culture, and Yang Seol, the chairperson of the Higashi Kujo Madang organising committee in Kyoto and Yang's daughter, who selected the works to be exhibited. Kiyoshi Awazu also designed posters and illustrations to support the movement, which I believe is an important work that needs more light. What the two have in common is that they embody exactly Awazu's 'Makrihirogeru' spirit.

*2 Inspired by 'Sutero', a suite of 15 pieces composed by Shin Sasakubo and Daisuke Aoki of the Chichibu avant-garde school.



 What is "Makurihirogeru"?


Awazu Awazu once said in "THE DESIGN REVIE" magazine: I am determined not only to remove the boundaries of expression in all fields of expression, but also to remove the expressions of class, classification, disparity, ascent and descent as they appear in art. That's what 'Makrihirogeru' is! Awazu believed that this kind of action was also design, and that is why he thought that anyone could do design. Also, music, woodblock prints, and movies are "reproductions", which is in line with Kiyoshi Awazu's lifelong obsession with the art of reproduction. The Chichibu Avantist Group and Korean Art Prints are "fighting art" that I have encountered in recent years and been moved by. I would like to invite you to the Kiyoshi Awazu exhibition at 21 Museum. I wanted to introduce them as an answer to the question "What can design do”.
By the way, although Kiyoshi Awazu's friendships were very wide, I am very interested in his work and connections with the artists Masayoshi Nakamura and Kikuji Yamashita. These two men are important in the history of modern Japanese art, and their works always radiate a tremendous energy whenever I confront them. Awazu has edited and bound important collections of their works, and they have also had interesting conversations. If there is another opportunity like this, I would like to try a three-way collaboration exhibition.


 Will there be any related events this time?


Awazu There will be concerts by Shin Sasakubo, KOJI ASANO, Korean singer and writer Lee Ran, pianist and essayist Choi Sung Ae, and a performance by flower arranger Yuji Ueno. The artists of Kiyoshi Awazu's children and grandchildren are responding to his spirit and passing it on to the next generation. This is also Makurihirogeru.


Design for 'Social Change'


 Mr. Awazu participated in the Metabolism movement among architects, served as editor-in-chief of "THE DESIGN REVIE” magazine, published many books, and explored new forms of expression such as video with Hiroshi Teshigawara and others. He also explored expression.


Awazu Awazu was a designer, artist, editor, essayist, photographer, filmmaker and artist whose interests kept changing as he changed. He is a person who freely strayed from institutions and genres, and has diverse aspects that cannot be judged or understood in existing contexts. He is particularly difficult to understand for those who have received formal art and design education. As Ichiro Hariu said, "Awazu was doing something that was not a servant of industrial society", and as post-war modernism progressed and design became a tool for economic activity, Awazu was seeking something that was not. Throughout his life, he tried to transcend the relationship between client and designer. He started by drawing, studied design on his own, read a lot of books, wrote a lot, and worked with a diverse range of people. For him, living was design and art. There is no doubt about that.
It has been 10 years since this artist died. Like art and music, the design world seems to have become increasingly divided into detailed genres and the division of labour, and the range of expression has narrowed even further. It's boring. The institutionalised art world is killing potential. But, as in any age, it is expression that rebels against adversity and breaks out of existing boundaries that opens up new wildernesses.


 What I feel about Awazu's work is that the themes and sources of ideas are incredibly broad and deep.


Awazu I think that because he did not have a specialised education in design or art, his ideas were free and flexible. In the talk show "Graphism in the Wilderness", Kazumasa Nagai asked Mitsuo Katsui whether Awazu's awakening to contemporary design was triggered by his interaction with Kohei Sugiura and Katsui, but whether their styles have changed since then. In response, Katsui replied: 'We have in common the idea of returning to or exploring the original qualities of things, but in my case, I am very interested in the protoplasm or the structural aspect that shapes expression. In his case, however, there is a kind of hunger for people, a kind of obsession with life, which is different from mine" (Kiyoshi Awazu, Makrihirogeru Document Book). In other words, in his own essay.
In other words, in his essay, he says: "Illustration is nothing more than stepping into the dark reality, shining the light of a human being's own eyes on it, and highlighting and expressing it". I think he wanted to give form to something like human emotion.


 Also, there are many designs that use hand expression and physicality, such as paintings, prints, and typesetting.


Awazu In the beginning, there was a time when Awazu drew illustrations and Gan Hosoya and his team designed, but he became self-taught and started working as a graphic designer. Anyway, he liked to express himself using his hands, and depending on the period he used his favourite motifs such as turtles, maps, seals and fingerprints in his various jobs. Nowadays it would be a problem if I used the same motifs in my designs, but Awazu was not concerned about such things. He was also very interested in printing techniques and would frequent workshops such as The Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints and the Saito Process for silk printing, researching new expressions and techniques with the craftsmen. He was an improviser and never stopped studying and training to remain so. Graphic designers these days are more art director-oriented and fewer people draw by hand. That's just the way of the times, I suppose.


 Many of his works are related to ideological and social movements, such as posters for the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, the Korean struggle for democracy, and posters for Shingeki theatre, and he seems to do less commercial design.


Awazu Yes, I think so. In fact, I don't think there were many requests for work from advertising agencies. Although he was never immersed in the vortex of social movements, there may have been a time when he was aiming to 'change society' through design. That said, he was not selective in his work. For example, at the time of the 1970 Osaka Expo, his close friend Ichiro Hariu was anti-Expo, but Awazu said that he was "just a humble man with design skills" and that he would do any work that came his way, as was his custom in the media he edited, including Design Critique. In fact, he played an active role in the national project, Expo '70. He also believed that design is based on collaboration, so it is important to finish the work within that context. In that sense, he was not a work-oriented person, and he never repeated colour proofs in printing. He respected chance operations and coincidence.


 He was a self-reliant and independent person.


Awazu He did not say anything about being called a 'graphic designer', but I think he thought of himself as 'Kiyoshi Awazu, not a designer', in the same way that Taro Okamoto, who he had worked with at Expo '70, said he was Taro Okamoto, not an artist. He was not a person who was obsessed with titles. He was a man who did many things.


Awazu works other than 21 Museum


 Now, most of his work is in the 21 Museum collection, but are there any other places where Awazu's work is held?


Awazu The DNP Cultural Foundation had a considerable number of posters, and the Kawasaki City Museum, which he was involved in founding, had nearly 200 works, which were submerged by flood damage caused by Typhoon No. 19.

Many of his film posters were donated to the National Film Centre of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, including silk prints of Nikkatsu films from the 1950s. In addition, some of the manuscripts of texts are still filed in the Awazu Design Office (Photo 1). Awazu had a wide circle of friends, so several interesting cultural documents remain, such as letters from Toshi Ichiyanagi, Shuji Terayama and Shuntaro Tanikawa. Abroad, some 80 prints and posters are in the collection of the Cuban Council of Fine Arts, following an exhibition in Havana four years ago. Kiyoshi Awazu's reproduction of "Abe Sada" may well become known in Cuba, the country of the arts, in the same way as Zatoichi and Hatsune Miku. The year before last, an exhibition was held at the Eurasia University in Xi'an, China. The Awazu Collection has more than 100 pieces in the Design Museum of this university. In addition, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have a large number of posters. A solo exhibition was also held here a few years ago, focusing mainly on the collection. By the way, almost all of these are donated works. As far as I know, almost none of them have ever been turned into ‘merchandise'. There seems to be a sense in the art world that what sells for a high price is excellent art, but if that is the case, Kiyoshi Awazu is far removed from that context.


Kiyoshi Awazu's original manuscript

Photo 1: Kiyoshi Awazu's original manuscript



 He has published many books, so he must have had a collection of books, right?


Awazu Yes, In the field of design, he was into everything from Bauhaus to Russian avant-garde, Hokusai of course, but especially Eisen and Yoshitoshi, who were painters at the end of the Edo period, so he had a lot of books. He also read books when he suddenly fell in love with Gaudí, but he also made numerous trips to Barcelona himself, wrote books, made documentary films and even organised screenings and exhibitions. In his later years, he was influenced by Shizuka Shirakawa and painted more than 100 hieroglyphs with a brush every day. As a young man, he read a lot of books, following his interests, which ranged from Harvard Reed and Walter Benjamin to Rimbaud, Osamu Dazai and Santoka in literature. Ben Shahn in the fifties, of course, but Kiyoshi Awazu steals and imitates the works of authors he is fascinated by from the books they are reproduced in. The subject changed at a great speed. Today, many of the books that remained on his bookshelves are in a facility called the Echigo-Tsumari Satoyama Museum of Contemporary Art (now Museum on Echigo-Tsumari) designed by Hara Hiroshi, and are open to the public as the Awazu Kiyoshi Library, alongside books from the collection of Kitagawa Fram. Of course, there are also many books for which Awazu did the book design, which are in the collection at 21 Museum.


 Would you like some photos?


Awazu T There was a period, particularly in the 1950s and early 1960s, when he was taking photographs enthusiastically under the influence of Ken Domon and Shomei Tomatsu, with whom he was involved in the work of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. The negatives have been lost, but the prints are at 21 Museum. In the 1980s, Ikko Tanaka produced a gallery called 'Tokyo Designers Space', where designers held a solo exhibition every week. Most people exhibited their work, such as posters and packaging, but Awazu dared to show the photographs he had been taking. The photographs are literally landscapes and events that he was watching. This is where you can feel his sympathy for unknown people. The photographs were researched by curator Ritsuko Takahashi, who compiled a booklet entitled "Sea and Blanket – The Photographs of Awazu Kiyoshi".


 From an archive point of view, Kiyoshi Awazu is very fortunate. From an archiving perspective, Kiyoshi Awazu is very fortunate. His works are housed at 21 Museum and archiving work is in progress. His son, Ken, supports the exhibitions and connects the Awazu-ism through various activities. From your point of view, what do you think of the current state of design archives and museums?


Awazu As for the Awazu Archive, we are really grateful. With this exhibition, Kiyoshi Awazu's works will be made available as copyright-free open data. Anyone will be able to use his images freely in books and on the internet. This is an attempt that is typical of Kiyoshi Awazu, who lived and breathed reproductions, and as a museum we feel that this is a groundbreaking action. This is also because there were people who discovered new artistic values in his work and his stance as an artist. That is important. Also, before the archive, the aesthetic sense of the selector is important, and I think we ourselves have to free ourselves from the establishment-oriented, authoritarian and Western supremacist way of looking at and thinking about things. It must be a matter of imagination and education.
I If I may speak more ideally, I would like to see a cycle in which collections and archives are researched, current themes are unearthed and made into exhibitions, which are then widely publicised. I am an outsider, so I cannot say for sure, but I have heard that many museums are understaffed and that one curator is responsible for producing and organising exhibitions, maintaining collections and archives, organising lectures and workshops, which is just too much of a burden. In addition, a surprisingly large number of public museum staff move on, which makes it difficult for them to take over their work. Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that archives are not being developed. Can we change the current situation of economic supremacy in art, design and culture? I know that the economic level is usually not proportional to the cultural level. In other words, culture cannot be bought with money, but in every sense, the question of "what can design do”.
I see the archive as a cultural asset for those who will be responsible for the future. One of Kiyoshi Awazu's achievements was to give form to the souls of unknown people, or something like an emotion that has been overlooked, and to make it visible to our eyes. The work of famous artists is important, but I also hope that the archivists will have a Kiyoshi Awazu perspective and a good sense of what is important.



Interview 02: Report

The museum system is built around art.

Kiyoshi Awazu Archive at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (hereafter 21 Museum) opened in 2004 with the stated aims of 'creating new culture' and 'creating a new lively town', and will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2019. The open, art-object-like building in the park was designed by the world-renowned architectural unit SANAA, which also designed the Louvre Annexe de Reims, and the light-hearted logo design based on its floor plan was created by the graphic designer Taku Satoh, who is also known for programmes such as Design Ah, and truly embodies the image of a 21st It embodies the image of a museum for the 21st century. Permanent exhibits such as Leandro Erlich's Swimming Pool, James Turrell's Blue Planet Sky and Patrick Blanc's Green Bridge are also popular as works that can be enjoyed by all, overturning the conventional image of contemporary art as a bit difficult. The exhibition is also located in a tourist area close to Kanazawa Castle Park, which is attracting a large number of inbound visitors every day. 21 Museum covers a wide range of fields, from contemporary art to new genres such as architecture, design, fashion and crafts, and is popular with men and women of all ages. Its mission is fourfold.


1. to be an art museum that lives with the 'now' of the world.
2. to be an art museum that is alive in the community, built with the citizens, and that encourages participation and exchange.
3. an art museum that connects local traditions to the future and opens them to the world.
4. an art museum that grows together with children.


In this way, 21 Museum has achieved great results as a 'place' for fostering new culture through art, where people interact with each other and with the town, and is known as a 'successful example of town and regional revitalisation through art museums and art'.
One of the 21 Museum's collections is a group of works by graphic designer Kiyoshi Awazu, which the Awazu family approached then-director Yutaka Mino in 2006 through an acquaintance (for details, see interview with Ken Awazu). In Awazu's case, the fact that his father was born in the former town of Tomirai, Ishikawa Prefecture, and the fact that the museum and the artist's philosophy of 'art and design must be a living thing' were also encouraging factors.


According to curator Ritsuko Takahashi, who organised the "Kiyoshi Awazu : WHAT CAN DESIGN DO" exhibition and is also in charge of the Kiyoshi Awazu Archive, as of July 2019, digital imaging and database work on 2,943 works, including paintings, sketches, books, magazines and posters, was almost completed, and they are now available on the 21 Museum website. The database is now open to the public and accessible to all.
The entries in the database are classified and described with reference to those used by the Awazu family. Photographs and images, such as film title designs, are also being digitised and databases are being created. The books designed by Awazu are held at 21 Museum, and in parallel with this archiving work, curatorial research has been carried out at 21 Museum, the results of which have been shown in exhibitions (see below) and published in book form.


●Exhibition "Graphism in the Wilderness : Kiyoshi Awazu Exhibition" (2007-2008) (Photo 2)
An exhibition planned on the occasion of the donation of Awazu's works


●"Kiyoshi Awazu, Makrihirogeru" series (2014 - 2018)
This is a project to introduce and reconsider the world of Kiyoshi Awazu from multiple perspectives through continuous research and study of works and materials by 21 Museum curators, and was shown as part of the 21 Museum collection exhibition.
"Makrihirogeru" (EXPOSE)1 "Art Running Wild: Awazu Kiyoshi and Performance" (2014)
Collection 2 "History, Regrowth, and Future"(2015)
"Makurihirogeru" (EXPOSE)2 "From Graphic to Visual: Awazu Kiyoshi's Theory on Visual Communication" (2015)
Collection 2 "Diary" (2016)
"Makurihirogeru" (EXPOSE)3 "Awazu Kiyoshi and Architecture" (2016)
Collection 1 "PLAY"(2017)
"Makurihirogeru"(EXPOSE)4 "Sea and Blanket – The Photographs of Awazu Kiyoshi" (2017)
Collection Exhibition: Asian Landscapes
"Makurihirogeru" (EXPOSE)5 "Awazu Kiyoshi: Book Illustrations" (2018)


●Exhibition "Awazu Kiyoshi : WHAT CAN DESIGN DO" (2019) (Photo 3)



Kiyoshi Awazu Installation view

Photo 2
"Graphism in the Wilderness: Kiyoshi Awazu" (2007-2008, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa) Installation view
(Front) Re-exhibition of the "Graphism Trilogy" exhibited at the São Paulo Biennale in 1977
(Left) "Space Poetry" (1977)
Image courtesy of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa


Kiyoshi Awazu Installation view

Photo 3
"AWAZU Kiyoshi : WHAT CAN DESIGN DO" (2019, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa) Exhibition view
Image courtesy of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa



The "Kiyoshi Awazu : Makrihirogueru" series is a particularly ambitious project in which the 21 Museum curators delve into the makrihirogueru spirit and creative world of Kiyoshi Awazu from their own perspectives and reconsider it in the context of the contemporary time frame. In 2014, the project focused on performance, reconsidering Awazu's pioneering spirit of dismantling existing hierarchies through contemporary artists; in 2015, the project explored Awazu's methods of visual communication by bringing together works from his masterpiece "Give Our Sea Back", which first won the JAAC Prize in 1955. In 2017, the relationship between Awazu and architecture was introduced from three angles: 'Metabolism and Expo', 'Collaboration with Architects' and 'Designing Architectural Magazines'. 2017 saw an image analysis of photographic works and the solo exhibition "Sea and Blanket – The Photographs of Awazu Kiyoshi", where the photographic information was analysed to reveal the location and year of shooting. And in 2018, they analysed Awazu's gaze towards children and his commitment to printing techniques, particularly through his illustrations for children. All of these works have been shown in exhibitions and booklets.


Curators talk about the Awazu Archive now.

So how is the work on the archive of Awazu's works actually being carried out? In compiling the archive at 21 Museum, the current person in charge, Ms Ritsuko Takahashi, has been working with archivists with specialist knowledge.
Ms Ritsuko Takahashi, who has been in charge of the archive for less than three years after taking over from her predecessor, is working in collaboration with an archivist with specialist knowledge. In practice, the curator classifies the works, and the full-time archivist is in charge of describing and registering them accordingly. The work management database uses Waseda System's I.B.MUSEUM SaaS, which has been improved according to 21 Museum's own items. At present, 21 Museum prioritises the digitisation of 2,944 Awazu works, assigning a registration number to each image and entering basic information such as work name, artist name, classification, year of production, materials and techniques, size, etc., and releasing them as a database.
However, this is apparently not sufficient for Awazu's works. In the case of graphic design such as posters, there are many illustrators, copywriters and clients involved, and the number of items that need to be covered is enormous, especially photographers and actors (portrait rights) for film and theatre company posters, and manufacturer names and technologies for product posters. In the case of Awazu's works, it is also difficult to identify the originals because many of them have undergone English translations or reprints, or are original drawings made from reproductions, or original drawings that have been reproduced over and over again. In short, unlike unique works of art, graphic design, which is based on the premise that they are reproductions, has many items that need to be cleared, and has to be tackled starting with the creation of a registration format unique to the design. In order to overcome this situation, Ms Takahashi hopes to open the database to the public and create an environment in which researchers and master's and doctoral students can also freely conduct research, thereby expanding the scope of their investigations.

So, what kind of initiatives is Ms Takahashi undertaking as a curator?


Takahashi In 2016 and 2017, Awazu Research received a grant from the DNP Cultural Foundation to conduct a survey entitled "The role of Kiyoshi Awazu in the history of graphic design: reconsidering his relationship with architecture, film and photography based on works and materials from the collection of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa". The results are presented in the Kiyoshi Awazu Makrihirogueru series in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In particular, the 2017 I think it was a valuable step to trace Awazu's footprints and perspectives from a single photograph and to look back on that period.


We also asked about the intention of the exhibition.


Takahashi As a museum of contemporary art, 21 Museum is characterised by the flexibility of its visitors, who want to enjoy a variety of art. We didn't want the Awazu exhibition to be just a retrospective, so we tried to avoid nostalgia. Therefore, we tried to organise the exhibition according to themes such as society, culture and the people, rather than according to genres such as posters and books.


Ken Awazu supervised the planning of this exhibition, but what was the significance of working with the bereaved families?


Takahashi Mr Ken Awazu has a lot of knowledge and information that we don't have and, above all, he is the person who understands Kiyoshi Awazu the best. It is very encouraging to be able to work with him. For this exhibition, Ken asked us if we could work on the theme of social design, and after consulting with him, we decided on the title " WHAT CAN DESIGN DO". I think we were able to present a new axis of evaluation of Awazu as a designer, and with Ken's suggestion, we were able to present a new position of Awazu towards the people and those who are in a vulnerable position. In contrast to his early and mid-period works with a strong message to society, his later works, SUTETARO and EARTHMAN, show a consistent attitude of a message to society, but also celebrate a calmness that gently envelops the audience. I would be delighted if you could enjoy the variety of Awazu's work from the exhibition.


How will contemporary art museums, including 21 Museum from the perspective of archiving, respond to the recent diversification of expression and creative methods, not just in design?


Takahashi That is a big issue. In design, the archiving method itself has become a subject of research. In the archive, the artist's words and texts are of course important, but interviews with the artist and other people involved, as well as video recordings, are effective tools for learning about the personality of the artist. In recent archives, digital data has been emphasised, but I believe that printed materials are also important in terms of recording and preservation. The reason is that digital technology evolves rapidly, and media and software change rapidly, so it is time-consuming and expensive to update it over a certain period of time. In addition, in some cases, the meaning and intention of a film can change as a result of digitalisation, so it is necessary to consult with the artist and his or her family before proceeding. Digitalisation will continue to advance in the future, but that is why originality will become increasingly important.


Since its opening, 21 Museum has become a well-known landmark in Kanazawa, welcoming many visitors from home and abroad as a tourist attraction. At the time of our visit (9 July 2019), the entire museum was busy and the Kiyoshi Awazu exhibition was full of visitors. Many of them probably don't know who Awazu is, but Awazu, whose creed is 'Makrihirogeru', must be hoping that a wide range of people, not just design professionals, will visit the exhibition. 21 Museum also exhibited several other works by Awazu, including product designer Kazuo Kawasaki, graphic designer Makoto Saito and architecture unit Atelier Bow-Wow. The reason for this is that it does not collect design as design, but appreciates the modernity in the 'works' that have been called design.


The challenge for design archives is that design departments in Japanese museums are still in their infancy and there are far fewer curators specialising in design. However, the current museum system is based on the criteria of art, and there is no system in place to deal with design based on reproductions, so there has been little progress. Design archives are finally attracting attention, and various issues are coming to the surface. The National Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo will move to Kanazawa, Ishikawa in 2020, bringing crafts and design into the spotlight even more than before. We hope that this will be the catalyst for the development of such a system and structure in design.




21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa 920-8509 Japan
Tel: 076-220-2801 (Curatorial Division) Fax: 076-220-2806