Rakuko Naito, born in Tokyo, graduated from the Tokyo National University of the Arts in 1958, majoring in traditional Japanese nihonga painting. After completing her studies, she relocated to New York City with her husband, artist Tadaaki Kuwayama. In the early to mid-1960s, Naito engaged in Optical (Op) Art, utilising spray paint, masking tape, and acrylic paint – an innovative medium introduced by American abstract painter Sam Francis. As Op Art gained popularity among artists in the mid-1960s, Naito continued her experimental practices, leading her to explore simple forms, flat monochromatic colours, and clean lines. This approach continues to inform her artistic practice today.

During the 1970s, Naito shifted her focus from abstract painting to creating representational works that depicted nature, particularly flowers, often on a large scale. Despite the prevailing trend towards conceptualism in New York during that period, which prioritised the idea behind the artwork over its physical form, Naito remained committed to her artistic vision and chose subjects that personally interested her. In 1978, she held a solo exhibition titled Monumental Flower Paintings at the Charleston Art Gallery of Sunrise (now known as the Juliet Art Museum).

In the latter half of the 1990s, Naito embarked on a series of artworks that involved arranging natural materials such as paper, wood and cotton balls in geometric formations within frames. These pieces successfully eliminate narrative elements while still bearing traces of Western avant-garde influences. Simultaneously, they showcase the dignified existence and the pure, clear essence of traditional Japanese beauty.




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