A Reflection on Reflections

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The Denver Art Museum is certainly an inviting place for families this summer! From the Become a Sculptor Studio to the 3D cardboard cave exhibition, children will find something to engage them on every level of the museum. But what about mom and dad? That’s where the new exhibition At The Mirror: Reflections of Japan in 20th Century Prints comes in. It embodies the perfect balance of sophisticated exhibit design and artwork, while still featuring family-friendly activities, making it the ultimate stop on the art-museum-with-kids checklist.

Many styles of art are represented in Reflections: from colorful modern prints to delicate and detailed portrait prints. All were created using the intricate woodblock printing method, which is demonstrated in a must-see video incorporated into the exhibit. While the method is easy to understand, it’s also obvious that the artists had be to extremely skilled at their craft, and patient, while creating these masterpieces. A prominent example of this is the snow scenes, where each snow flake had to be individually carved into the woodblock before printing.

Although the exhibit allows patrons to freely travel in any direction (a convenient feature for families), touring the exhibit in order offers a retrospective journey through the development of Japanese culture. The first two prints in the collection, the oldest and newest, were made in 1901 and 2001. They portray a woman in a traditional kimono and a skyscraper-dotted skyline, respectively. Throughout the show, these themes recur in many prints, as women obtain a larger role in society and architecture becomes more modern. Eastern and Western cultures are also blended, such as in one collection where many American-art techniques and American landscapes, such as El Capitan, are used. This, and the fact that most of the prints have modern subjects, make the exhibition relatable. But if you’re traveling with children, you may want to instead try the spinner game, which lets you search the prints randomly for various themes, such as nighttime, instead of following the exhibit’s flow.

Ultimately, adults will appreciate the print’s cultural development, children will be entertained, while still being pushed out of their comfort zone with a more sophisticated exhibition, and people of all ages will enjoy the healthy mix of whimsical and realistic prints Reflections has to offer.