Clifton Karhu: A New Look From A Second Generation Art Dealer
By Allison Tolman : Excerpt from Daruma 42
Clifton Karhu, the American printmaker, could be known as the artist who beat the Japanese at their own game. This is meant in a “friendly” way—one reason that he has been able to do it is because Japanese artists have decided to play a different game.
In a world where laser prints of futuristic imaginary scenery or off-set lithographs with dreamy colors pass as original art, Mr Karhu has stuck to the tried and tested method of making traditional Japanese woodblock prints in both subject matter and technique.
Faithfully printing copy by copy, by hand, by himself, he has come up with a winning formula which keeps him at the “top of the heap” of an ever-growing number of foreign, and even Japanese imitators who never quite get it right.
He is unique, above the fray, immediately recognized in person for his manner of dress, the Japanese kimono; and immediately recognized in prints, because of his brilliant use of vivid colors and traditional use of the key block system which unifies and clarifies his depiction of the Japan that may not always be here.
His “official” recognition may be a bit lagging; he declined to continue as the Kyoto representative of the Japan Print Association because he felt the organisation wasn’t interested in Kyoto. Even though he has continually supported the CWAJ print show for almost 40 years, strangely enough he has never been honored with a cover of their catalogue, or even a place in their associate show.
Nevertheless his old-fashioned loyalty to this worthwhile cause keeps him as one of their longest-term supporters: only Iwami Reika and Kitaoka Fumio outranking him in longevity. Perhaps it is because the good women who run that organization have taken him for granted, as people do with those whom they shouldn’t.
Allison Tolman, director of the Tolman Collection of New York, is a private dealer specializing in contemporary Japanese prints. Tel: 212-489-7696. You can read the rest of this article by purchasing Daruma 42 from our Back Issues page.