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Contemporary Japanese Art

In the contemporary era, Japanese artists have continued to pursue their own unique modes of expression, in parallel with but distinct from the art movements that have emerged internationally. In discarding the old artistic conventions that had lost their luster in the changing times, these artists have been involved in a process of exploring anew what art is and also what the human being is in the contemporary world.

Tadaaki Kuwayama (1932-) is an artist who moved to New York from Japan in 1958 and has made that city the center of his activities ever since. He has consistently created works composed of a number of monochromatic color fields in a style that reduced the expressive elements to an absolute minimum and diligently eliminated the unnecessary in pursuit of a world of unprecedented purity and simplicity only possible in a work of art. In Untitled (Metallic Colors), the canvases that compose the work are sprayed uniformly with acrylic pigments mixed with aluminum powder, leaving no trace of brush strokes or other work of the hand usually produced in the creation of a work of art.

Tadaaki Kuwayama, Untitled (Metallic colors), 1971, 305.0 x 357.0cm

Born in Gyeongsangnam-do Korea and based in Japan for most of his creative career, Lee U-Fan(1936-)is an artist who has sought to connect directly to the substance of the world by creating works rooted in the relationship between the human being, the things of the world and the spaces in which they coexist, rather than creating works that attempt to duplicate some preconceived state of completion. The work From Line in the Kawamura collection is composed solely of the most basic element of painting: the line. In Lee’s own words, "The product of each single stroke of the brush must correspond to a living, breathing thing." His is a creative process in which the relationship born at the moment of contact between the brush and the painting surface expands to define a unique consciousness and worldview.

Lee U-Fan, From Line, 1983, 218.0 x 291.0cm

Isamu Wakabayashi (1936-2003) is an artist who created sculptures primarily of steel in his pursuit of space and time as it appears at the boundaries between humanity and the natural or material world. In his Oscillating Scale works, the artist represents the line of sight between the viewer and the object with bar-shaped forms constructed to serve as shaku or "scales" to measure the fluctuating space between person and object when the person tries to perceive and understand the object. The four Oscillating Scale constructions that make up this important work represent Wakabayashi’s decisive point of conclusion in his artistic quest.

Isamu Wakabayashi
Oscillating Scale I, 1979, 20.5 x 34.7 x 149.5cm
Oscillating Scale II, 1979, 34.6 x 54.6 x 163.5cm
Oscillating Scale III, 1979, 19.7 x 28.8 x 181.6cm
Oscillating Scale IV, 1979, 18.8 x 19.7 x 186.2cm

Other Works in the Collection

  • Shuzo Takiguchi, Décalcomanie, 1962
  • Yoshishige Saito, Work, 1963
  • Natsuyuki Nakanishi, R・R・W-Four Beginnings III, 2002
  • Shusaku Arakawa, Landscape, 1967
  • Museum