Tadaaki Kuwayama & Rakuko Naito: In Silence: An Ode to Nothing

HK H Queen’s 8/F

2024.01.27 - 03.16

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.

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.

(1)TK6671-1/2-'68 (2)TK6371-1/2-'68

1968
Acrylic on canvas
180.3 × 180.3 cm

* USD200,000 each

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TK2648-5/8-78

1978
Acrylic and tape on canvas
123.0 × 123.0 cm

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TK5333-5/8-69

1969
Acrylic on canvas with aluminium strip
85.4 × 85.7 cm

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TK5233-5/8-69

1969
Acrylic on canvas with aluminium strip
85.4 × 85.7 cm

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Untitled

1988
Oil on paper
55.0 × 44.0 cm

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TK2515-1/2-86

1986
Oil and paper on wood panel
28.0 × 9.0 × 40.0 cm

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TK10260-68

1968
Acrylic on canvas
152.0 × 79.4 cm

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(1)TK6671-1/2-'68 (2)TK6371-1/2-'68

1968
Acrylic on canvas
180.3 × 180.3 cm

* USD200,000 each

More Info

TK2648-5/8-78

1978
Acrylic and tape on canvas
123.0 × 123.0 cm

More Info

TK5333-5/8-69

1969
Acrylic on canvas with aluminium strip
85.4 × 85.7 cm

More Info

TK5233-5/8-69

1969
Acrylic on canvas with aluminium strip
85.4 × 85.7 cm

More Info

Untitled

1988
Oil on paper
55.0 × 44.0 cm

More Info

TK2515-1/2-86

1986
Oil and paper on wood panel
28.0 × 9.0 × 40.0 cm

More Info

TK10260-68

1968
Acrylic on canvas
152.0 × 79.4 cm

More Info

(1)TK6671-1/2-'68 (2)TK6371-1/2-'68
TK2648-5/8-78
TK5333-5/8-69
TK5233-5/8-69
Untitled
TK2515-1/2-86
TK10260-68

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.

Rakuko Naito

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.

Untitled (RN324-3-1/2-19)

2019
japanese paper on panel
61.0 × 61.0 × 8.9cm

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Untitled (RN736-3-1/2-16)

2016
japanese paper on panel
91.5 × 91.5 × 8.9cm

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Untitled (RN936-3-1/2-16)

2016
japanese paper on panel
91.5 × 91.5 × 8.9cm

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Untitled (RN524-3-1/2-14)

2014
japanese paper on panel
61.0 × 61.0 × 8.9cm

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Untitled (RN316-4-17)

2017
Japanese paper on board
40.6 × 40.6 × 10.2 cm

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Untitled (RN412-4-1/2-10)

2010
Japanese paper on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

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Untitled (RN412-4-1/2-05)

2005
Japanese paper on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

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Untitled (RN2112-4-1/2-05)

2005
Cotton on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

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Untitled (RN1412-4-1/2-05)

2005
Japanese paper on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

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Untitled (RN324-3-1/2-19)

2019
japanese paper on panel
61.0 × 61.0 × 8.9cm

More Info

Untitled (RN736-3-1/2-16)

2016
japanese paper on panel
91.5 × 91.5 × 8.9cm

More Info

Untitled (RN936-3-1/2-16)

2016
japanese paper on panel
91.5 × 91.5 × 8.9cm

More Info

Untitled (RN524-3-1/2-14)

2014
japanese paper on panel
61.0 × 61.0 × 8.9cm

More Info

Untitled (RN316-4-17)

2017
Japanese paper on board
40.6 × 40.6 × 10.2 cm

More Info

Untitled (RN412-4-1/2-10)

2010
Japanese paper on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

More Info

Untitled (RN412-4-1/2-05)

2005
Japanese paper on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

More Info

Untitled (RN2112-4-1/2-05)

2005
Cotton on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

More Info

Untitled (RN1412-4-1/2-05)

2005
Japanese paper on board
30.5 × 30.5 × 11.4 cm

More Info

Untitled (RN324-3-1/2-19)
Untitled (RN736-3-1/2-16)
Untitled (RN936-3-1/2-16)
Untitled (RN524-3-1/2-14)
Untitled (RN316-4-17)
Untitled (RN412-4-1/2-10)
Untitled (RN412-4-1/2-05)
Untitled (RN2112-4-1/2-05)
Untitled (RN1412-4-1/2-05)

Tadaaki Kuwayama & Rakuko Naito: In Silence: An Ode to Nothing
2024.01.27 - 03.16

홍콩 / H 퀸즈

7-8/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong
전화: +852 2523 8001
팩스: +852 2523 8005
영업시간: 11:00 - 19:00
휴무: 일요일, 월요일
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Opening Reception

4 - 7pm, 27 January 2024 (Satuarday)
Guided tour with Art Critic Cusson Cheng:
5pm, 27 January 2024 (Satuarday)

ABOUT

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.

ABOUT

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.

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