New York City, NY
A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints is the first exhibition in North America devoted to the portrayal of wakashu, or beautiful youths—a “third gender” occupying a distinct position in the social and sexual hierarchy of Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). Featuring over 65 woodblock prints, as well as paintings, luxury objects and personal ornaments, A Third Gender illuminates the richness of lived experience in Edo society, where complex rules governed gender constructs. This groundbreaking exhibition offers a critical artistic and historical context for gender performance and sexual expression, topics that are particularly resonant within society today.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, for the first time outside Japan, A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese EDO-Period Prints and Paintings (1600 1868) examines the fascination with wakashu in Edo-period culture and their visual representation in art, demonstrating how they destabilize the conventionally held model of gender binarism. Gender relations were complex in Edo-period Japan (1603 1868). Wakashu, male youths, were desired by men and women, constituting a third gender with their androgynous appearance and variable sexuality. The volume reproduces, in colour, over a hundred works, mostly woodblock prints and illustrated books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries produced by a number of designers ranging from such well-known artists as Okumura Masanobu, Suzuki Harunobu, Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Kunisada, to lesser known artists such as Shigemasa, Eishi and Eiri. The publication is based on the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, which houses the largest collection of Japanese art in Canada, including more than 2,500 woodblock prints.