Rainbow: Ay-O Print Exhibition
April 2 - May 28, 2022
“Line travels toward infinity, but color itself is infinite. Through color, I experience the complete vastness of the universe, then, I am truly free.”
Takao Iijima (born May 19, 1931), better known as his artist name Ay-O. He was born in Ibaraki prefecture. Graduated from Tokyo University of Education. Ay-O started showing his works at the Yomiuri Indépendant Exhibition1 at the age of 22. In 1953, Ay-O joined the Demokrato Artist Association with On Kawara. It was an innovative group led by the surrealist painter Ei-Q2 to promote independence in the creation of art. Demokrato was a place without judgment or hierarchy where Ay-O could create freely. It was a “utopia” for him. Ay-O left for the United States in 1958. He participated in the international avant-garde art movement Fluxus 3 with the introduction of Yoko Ono. As a prominent member of Fluxus, Ay-O participated in different performances with artists from various creative fields including painters, musicians, composers, writers and dancers. In 1964, they organized Rainbow Happening No.1 (Rainbow Music No.1), the piece referred to the sense of hearing as part of the Fluxus Orchestra Concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. Next year, to stimulate the visual and sense of taste of the guests, they serve food in six different colors as Rainbow Happening No.4 (Rainbow Dinner) at Café Au Go Go, a club in the basement of New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre in New York. Inspired by the exploration of senses, he created tactile environments or ‘atmosphere art.’ He also made installations known as ‘environmental art’ and many other works that could be directly touched and experience by viewers.
In 1966, Ay-O exhibited in the 33rd Venice Biennale. He created a full-scale rainbow world, entitled “Rainbow Tactile Room.” The walls are covered by wavy rainbow colors and decorated with 65 Finger Boxes. Each Finger Box, surprised the guest with radio sound, cold water, textures and many more experiences waiting for visitors to explore. Because of this work, Ay-O received extensive media coverage around the world. People started to recognize him as “the Rainbow Artist.” In 1987, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Expo Universelle1937 the city of Paris organized the Series of Rainbow Happening No. 17 in the ancient venue at the Trocadero Garden as one of the events. It was a magnificent project consists of hanging 24 Rainbow colored ribbon made with a 300m long and 5m wide cloth from the top of Eiffel Tower. It was originally planned to be on view for three days, however, due to the strong gust of wind on the installation day, the authority of the city of Paris requested to remove it after the first day.
Ay-O attempted to express the spectrum of the rainbow as “something concrete which exists in nature.” He discarded artificial lines in his creation and came up with the idea of using all the colors at once. Moreover, he follows the principle of not changing the natural physical order of the colors from red to violet. He began making visual experimental works covering everything around him in rainbow colors. By doing so, he eliminated previous three-dimensional and four-dimensional existence. The boundaries between colors cannot be clearly distinguished in a real rainbow, thus the possibility of Ay-O dividing each color and creating more and more colors in between in his works is endless. Just as French artist Yves Klein explore the truth of the universe through his pure monochromatic paintings. Ay-O connects with the vastness of the universe through colors of the rainbow. At the same time, it symbolized the freedom of the spirits and different viewpoints of the world.
In 1960s, he began producing prints with two trusted printers Tokuzo Okabe and Kenryo Sukeda. According to Ay-O, “Back then, print was belittled as ‘Hanga’ (half-picture) and looked down upon as an inferior to oil painting.” However, he was a vocal critic of the dismissal of prints as being of lesser artistic value than paintings. He believes that the painters and printers are both creators of the works. In 1970, he won the Tokyo prize of the 7th Tokyo International Print Biennale with ‘Rainbow Hokusai.’ He creates his won work by brining in the essence of rainbow colors onto the original works. This exhibition showcases more than 40 of Ay-O’s prints since the 1970s. Taking all the viewers on a journey into Ay-O’s colorful world.
1 The Yomiuri Indépendant Exhibition: Established by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in February, 1949. This exhibition is a benchmark for the democratization of the post-war art world. It has played an important role in the development of contemporary art. It was held annually until 1963. Influential artists such as Jackson Pollock, On Kawara, Ushio Shinohara, Jiro Takamatsu, Genpei Akasegawa, Natsuyuki Nakanishi participated in the exhibition.
2 Ei-Q (1911-1960) was the pseudonym of Sugita Hideo, an avant-garde artist working in surrealist and abstract styles in the media of painting, photograms and, latterly, etching and lithographs. Formed and led Demokrato Artist Association in 1950s. He was one of the pioneers of Japanese postwar art.
3 Fluxus: An avant-garde art movement founded by George Maciunas. It was mainly active from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Besides Ay-O, over 60 artists were associated with Fluxus, including Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Alison Knowles, Charlotte Moorman, and La Monte Young.
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Opening Hours: 11:00 - 19:00
Closed: Sunday, Monday, Public Holiday