Exhibit: Rosanna Perez Barcinas and Dominica Tolentino at the "Paul Jacoulet: Vision of Micronesia & Asia" exhibit at the Guam Museum. The exhibit runs through Jan. 7.
French artist Paul Jacoulet was caught in a downpour on the bustling streets of Tokyo when he came across a curious face. The year was 1929 when he met a young boy of Chuukese and French descent. It wasn't soon after when the artist, best known for his meticulous Japanese woodblock prints, made his journey to Micronesia.
Through Jan. 7, "Paul Jacoulet - Vision of Micronesia & Asia" is on display at the Guam Museum featuring more than 160 prints from private collections, reproductions and related artifacts from his era.
On this side of the world, Jacoulet is an art rock star. Although he traveled throughout Micronesia, visiting everywhere from Chuuk to Saipan, he never stepped foot in Guam. That, however, doesn't matter to the fans and collectors from the island.
Along with the incredible detail and colors in his work, Jacoulet's style is relatable, especially with the faces he depicts, Guam Museum Executive Director Dominica Tolentino says.
"The woodblock printing technique, you can imagine his carvers having to make those really fine lines in each of those woodblocks and then having many dozens of woodblocks for each color Jacoulet uses," she says. "That technique alone is impressive."
The exhibit features video presentations as well as a section describing the arduous technique that went into making his prints. And unlike other Japanese artists, Jacoulet would credit the carvers who helped them make them.
Many of Jacoulet's pieces feature faces of people from neighboring islands, detailing everything from the turmeric left on the fingers of Yapese men after adorning their faces. He often depicted the beautiful women in his work with large, poisonous flowers and plants, including acrid bittermelon.
The Rainbow Series
Jacoulet's first and likely most popular series featured prominent women of Saipan. "Women of the South Seas," is more commonly referred to as "The Rainbow Series" because he concentrates on seven colors of the rainbow, one color for each woman.
"I think there's a familiarity of seeing a woman in a mestisa, to think someone back then was interested in painting someone in that style," Tolentino says.
For seven decades, however, the names of those women were lost to history. After research, including working with Jacoulet's daughter in Japan, the names of the women were uncovered and revealed last year in Saipan to their descendants.
Other than appreciating the artwork, the expression and the detail of all the people he captured, Rosanna Perez Barcinas says she hopes the Guam exhibit could spur more research. Barcinas is a Jacoulet super fan and avid collector who helped coordinate the Rainbow Series Saipan reveal.
"These images were taken in 1934. My mom was born in 1932," she says. "Any of these women could have been my grandma. But they're all women from Saipan. If you are descendants from Saipan, you need to come down here and check out your sainas. Or if anyone from Guam, if you're a Guerrero, a Blanco, a Tudela, you might be related to these women. I'm really hoping a Yapese kid will come here and see a heavily tattooed woman and think, 'Those tattoos look familiar. I might be related to her.' We know in the Yapese culture, it's the women who get their family history tattooed on them. That would be a great thing if we could ID all of these people. If anyone loves art, you need to come down here. Other than just appreciating the details, the artwork Paul Jacoulet, you get to see actual people who lived in Micronesia before the war. It's really like ethnographic art."
Paul Jacoulet: Vision of Micronesia & Asia at the Guam Museum
Paul Jacoulet: Vision of Micronesia and Asia
- Where: Guam Museum, Hagåtña
- Admission fee: $3 for adults, $1 for students with ID and free for senior citizens and kids under age 6.
- Hours of operations: Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday
- Exhibit runs through Jan. 14, 2018
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