When the people talk about Yukihisa Isobe, the best-known artwork is his ecological art “Where has the river gone?”. With the yellow flags floating on the still green filed, and the brown land becoming like a canvas, these bright, eye-catching colors lined out the winding road and marked out a history channel of the Shinano River. “Where has the river gone?” is one of Isobe’s iconic creations after his passionate devotions in Ecology whereas his early study was actually in fine art. Fram Kitagawa, the curator of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, once said: what Isobe currently does is exactly what I am longing for which art is a status quo between the relationship of the natural world and the human civilization.

In 2018, the grand opening of “Yukihisa Isobe Memorial Echigo-Tsumari Kiyotsu Soko Museum of Art” featured the artist’s works over the years, including not only his ecological arts but also his oil paintings, Wappen Series, and the plans of parachute project. Since his exceptional and outbreaking turning points, many audiences were astonished by his dynamic career paths. Yukihisa Isobe was born in 1935 Tokyo and later got accepted into Tokyo University of the Arts; therefore, he learned oil paintings under Ryohei Koiso and joined the Demokrato Artists Association [1] which is founded by Ei-Q, a mixed media artist. Then subsequently, Isobe participated in several times of the “Yomiuri Independent [2],” which was an exhibition attracted to many Avant-Garde artists. He also set out an atelier in Aoyama and tried to make a lithograph there. Influenced by the European arts and his peers, Ei-Q, his oil painting style gradually became abstract and led to getting a rejection of his graduation project from the school committee, resulting in his delayed completion of degree works.

His representative works from 1961 to 1965 were made mostly from stone dust and decorated with repetitive Wappen elements. Having the opportunity to create a gigantic public works result from his unique Wappen characteristic which is easily associated with the style prevalent in the 50s, Ivy Style, repetitive of common literal symbols, fresco textures, and embossment structures. All these combinations echoed each other and successfully caught people’s eyes worldwide.
Later, he created a giant wooden box which was functioned like a surprise box. He filled up spaces with daily collections of business logos, cards, prints, and wappens which were mass-produced from the modernization. The front of the box was inspired by Sotatsu Tawaraya’s [3] “Wind God and Thunder God” and Modern Japanese Artists. There are two different time zones crossing and responding to each other: the modernization period and the modern time of Japan. Since both of them could not be seen through on one surface, it triggers audiences’ curiosities and the desire to open and interact with the box. Even from nowadays, 2020, we still could peak the society back then through Yukihisa Isobe’s works.

Yukihisa Isobe moved to the United States for almost eight years, after his 1965 solo exhibition in Europe, and has a great impact on the rest of his career in art. For First Earth Day, he used air circulation concept and parachutes to make a “floating sculpture”, which opened a door for him to learn ecology. He later studied a master’s degree in Ecology from the University of Pennsylvania. Shifting his focus to the ecology, he intended to raise people’s awareness of environmental changes and visualize the issues. He returned to Japan in 1974, and still keep exhibiting his ecological arts while entrusted by the Japanese government to investigate the environment and teaches at the Tokyo Institute of Technology at the same time.

Whitestone Gallery Taipei is honored to hold Yukihisa Isobe’s first solo exhibition, a retrospective, in Taiwan. It will feature almost forty artworks from the 1950s to 1960s, including oil paintings with his graduation project, Wappen Series, as well as a wooden box work. Artworks from his other stages are exhibited by showing early and recent photos presented by the artist.

1. The Demokrato Artists Association founded by Ei-Q, as a leader, with Shigeru Izumi, Yoshio Hayakawa in 1951 and disbanded in 1957. The association rejected the authoritarianism of art and advocated the spirit of an independent. The association opened to art critics, designers and was not limited to artists. Sadashiro Kubo, Masuo Ikeda, Ay-O, and Yukihisa Isobe later entered the association.
2. Yomiuri Independent was hosted by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum from 1949 to 1963 with a review free format, which provided opportunities for avant-garde artists to present their works.
3. Sotatsu Tawaraya was active in the seventeenth century and was one of the most influenced artists, an iconic Rinpa School artist. His “Wind God and Thunder God” is chosen as a Japan national treasure.