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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Justin Jesty's Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan Awarded the ASAP 2019 Book Prize

Congratulations to Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literature Justin Jesty, whose book, Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan (Cornell), was recently awarded the Association for the Study of Arts of the Present's 2019 Book Prize.

Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan reframes the history of art and its politics in Japan post-1945.The ASAP writes: 

A virtuosic study of the intersection of art and politics, Justin Jesty’s Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan presents an original and important contribution to the fields of global contemporary art criticism and East Asian studies. But it is also a profound study of the art of one country that reaches outward toward other contexts and disciplines. Skewing the recent fascination with the so-called global conceptualism of the 1960s, Jesty shows how overlooked genres and amateur and collective artistic practices attempted to shape democratic culture from below amidst the radical uncertainty of the immediate postwar period in Japan. This was a transitional moment characterized by intense debate about how to move on from violent trauma and how not to reproduce the mistakes of the past. Jesty pushes back against the fashionable and aestheticized revolutionary demands typical of the neo-avant-garde by underscoring, instead, the problems of “organization, goal-directedness, and incremental change” that formed part of a postwar common sense overlooked by the emphasis, among recent art histories, on the effects of reconstruction and modernization during the following decades.

Justy conducted research for his book as a 2014-2015 Society of Scholars fellow. He was also a co-organizer of the Socially Engaged Art in Japan Symposium, which took place in November 2015.

The ASAP is an international, nonprofit association dedicated to discovering and articulating the aesthetic, cultural, ethical, and political identities of the contemporary arts.