Whitestone Gallery Hong Kong is pleased to present a duo exhibition featuring the esteemed artist Tadaaki Kuwayama, who sadly passed away last summer, and his wife, artist Rakuko Naito, chronicling the exceptional artistic prowess they have honed through their decades-long careers. With a lapidary selection of works spanning from the 1960s to the present day, this exhibition opens a visual dialogue between Kuwayama's serialized art forms and Naito's exploration in neutral materials. In 1958, upon the artists' relocation to New York, Kuwayama and Naito created works to eschew the early Nihonga training (Japanese traditional painting) and the rave of Abstract Expressionism trend. Instead, they developed their own distinctive styles. Despite their individual trajectories, there remains a thematic similarity between them — a rejection of aesthetic conventions in favor of achieving a sense of nothingness.
Tadaaki Kuwayama & Rakuko Naito: In Silence: An Ode to Nothing
HK H Queen’s 8/F
2024.01.27 - 03.16
For centuries, our perception of the real world has been engulfed by a prism of conditioned thoughts, making the pursuit of "nothing" elusive for us as emotional beings. However, Kuwayama and Naito emerge as a rare example that delves deeply into the essence of nothingness, with a deliberate reduction of space, compositions, narrativity, and individuality within their artistry. Kuwayama aimed to pursue what the artist called "Pure Art," epitomizing the absence of ideas, thoughts, philosophy, reasons, meanings, and even humanity in his work.
Monochrome paintings are the most acclaimed amongst Kuwayama's oeuvre, while Naito presented hard-edged, textured sculptural works. In 1961, Kuwayama held his first solo show at the storied Green Gallery. Naito, as well, held her first prominent exhibition in 1965 at the World House Gallery located in the uptown Madison Street — a testament to the duo's burgeoning talent.
This exhibition showcases some of Kuwayama's monochromatic works from the 1960s, such asTK6671-1/2-'68andTK6371-1/2-'68, the diptych features segments of vividly-colored paint on the canvas bisected by aluminum strips. From a distance, the surface of these works appears inscrutable until one walks close and notices the sheen of the gallery light reflecting off the glossy finish achieved by combining acrylic paints with Japanese mineral pigments.
In 1970s, Kuwayama's artistic methodology was surrounded by industrial elements and his works are often presented in rectilinear forms. At this point, the works are further distanced from traces of human narrative. TakeTK17-7/8-12as an example, a notable piece from his post-millennium period set against the gallery's white wall. This installation, comprising a vast unified grid of titanium panels rendered in iridescent shades of green and pink, is both entrancing and seemingly infinite, evoking a serene allure of eternity.
Although Naito’s affiliation with Nihonga was still present in her early artistic promotion in New York, she swiftly transitioned to working on Minimal Art and Optical Art in the mid-1960s. In the following decade, her works were represented by large scale Flowers series works. The artist is also best known for her vast exploration in neutral materials such as paper, wood and cotton balls, which she arranges geometrically within frames and employs techniques like rolling and folding,sometimes burning incense are used in her paper assemblage. InRN936-3-1/2-16, a resemblance of Naito's Flower series in 1970s, Japanese paper is arranged in a repetitive sequence while keeping the inherent color of the materials. These hard-edged geometric paintings highlight a nuanced tendency between strength and vulnerability in Naito's works, at the same time, manifest her desire to challenge pictorial flatness associated with Japanese art.
Japanese art is flat, so my main concern was to challenge flatness.
Together, Kuwayama and Naito's artistic journeys embody the purity of color, form and composition, defying aesthetic conventions as they strive for an unwavering pursuit of nothingness, while simultaneously delivering an inherent spiritual experience.
2024.01.27 - 03.16
홍콩 / H 퀸즈
전화: +852 2523 8001
팩스: +852 2523 8005
영업시간: 11:00 - 19:00
휴무: 일요일, 월요일
4 - 7pm, 27 January 2024 (Satuarday)
Guided tour with Art Critic Cusson Cheng:
5pm, 27 January 2024 (Satuarday)
Tadaaki Kuwayama, born in Nagoya, Japan, completed his studies in nihonga, a traditional Japanese painting style, at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts in 1956. However, he found himself uninterested in the strict practice of nihonga and the contemporary Japanese art scene at that time. In 1958, along with his wife and fellow artist Rakuko Naito, Kuwayama relocated to New York where he discovered the contemporary art scene and developed his unique artistic style.
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.