NEW YORK, NY.- Alison Bradley Projects
is presenting Rakuko Naito, curated by Gabriela Rangel.
The exhibition highlights representative works from the six decades long career of New York based Rakuko Naito (b. Tokyo, 1935) and is the first major gallery survey of the artist, showcasing early monochromatic paintings, a tinted photo-collage, and more recent paper and mesh cage sculptural works. Selected by Rangel, an independent curator and writer, the works on view aim to shed light on the artists unique practice, drawing on her early studies and utilization of traditional Japanese painting techniques to challenge pictorial flatness in conversation with the art of her time and in a truly New York practice of experimentation.
Rakuko Naito focuses on the artists lifelong engagement privileging poetic decisions over art historical labels such as Op art, hard-edge, minimalism and geometric abstraction, decisions which kept her exploring different avenues of abstraction in her own terms.
Trained in nihonga, literally translated as Japanese painting style (nihon meaning Japan and ga meaning painting in Japanese) and different to the Western-style oil painting (yõga), Rakuko Naito arrived in New York along with Tadaaki Kuwayama, her husband and fellow artist, at the end of the 1950s. She was in her early twenties at the time and became fully immersed in the creativity, and society, of artists in New York.
In the early 1960s, influenced by the rave of Abstract Expressionism and the emergence of Pop Art, Naito distanced herself from the constraints of her traditional education. The artist started to use acrylic paint, an American material that she was introduced to by her friend and fellow abstract painter Sam Francis and began to use it on canvas while questioning flatness: Japanese art is flat, so my main concern was to challenge flatness. She worked on a series of monochromatic paintings on which she outlined geometric shapes resulting in spatial demarcations and, in another series of the same period, created variations of geometric regularity to produce vibrations through the moiré effect. These works manifest her desire to break with, or at least to defy, the sensation of flatness.
In the 1970s, Naitos practise moved away from abstract painting to representational works, often large scale, of nature and mostly of flowers. In defiance of the wave of conceptualism in New York, a tendency that privileged the dematerialization of the art object in favor of an idea, she worked on her own terms and chose subjects she favored to contemplate. In 1978 she had a solo exhibition, Monumental Flower Paintings, at the then Charleston Art Gallery of Sunrise (now the Juliet Art Museum) and curated by Jay Frederick Cain.
From the early 1990s, Naito left her painting practice and began to work with photography, collage and sculptural works. At this time Naito developed a series of black and white photo-collages with dye tint representing floral motifs, stones, water, wood, and sky close ups composed as diptychs. Concurrently she began to produce sculptural mesh cages, resonant of the geometric shapes of her paintings created in the 1960s. Within these cages are paper-made structures that counterbalance the rigidity of the metal, infusing her unique sense of tension of space and material, lightness and weight.
For the past three decades, Naito has dedicated her artistic work to research into the malleability and strength of kozo and mino washi, traditional Japanese papers, manifest as an on-going series of organic compositions that she tears, folds, burns or rolls inside a thin box. The artist's paper reliefs seem clear and precise, yet possess a subtle feature of disarray to their patterns, resulting in a commotion to an otherwise systematically serial composition. These works reflect her interest in geometry, architecture and the natural forms and textures of the material creating a reality which she views as transcending the limits of painting and drawing.
Rakuko Naito currently works and resides in New York City with her husband Tadaaki Kuwayama.