Tadaaki KuwayamaMarch 10 - May 7
Tadaaki Kuwayama (b. Nagoya, 1932) arrived in New York in 1958, shortly after his graduation from Tokyo University of the Arts where he trained in the Japanese traditional painting style of nihonga. Rejecting nihonga’s strict aesthetic principles, Kuwayama came to eschew all modes of representation, instead dedicating his career in the United States, now in its seventh decade, to the creation of pure art without history.
Acclaimed as a pioneer of Minimalism in the 1960s, Kuwayama never thought of his work as such. Despite formal affinities with what later came to be critically constructed as post-painterly abstraction, Kuwayama’s commitment to non-compositional works and investigation of color, material, and space have always been on his own terms. His work considers the experience of perception—the interaction between his works and the audience within space is central to his practice.
This exhibition gathers key historic works that attest to the artist's contribution to expanding the limits of the art object as presence through the reflective properties of color and the interplay of the art object in space. Kuwayama’s paintings from the 1960s capture the artist’s striking shift away from his nihonga training—the more gestural use of black pigment and incorporation of silver and gold leaf in these works made way for his continued experiments with more industrial materials such as acrylic, metallic oils, and aluminum. Serial works from the 1980s and early 2000s highlight the artist’s spatial turn, in which Kuwayama has used a multitude of approaches to challenge the boundaries of aesthetics, collapsing the distinctions between painting and sculpture, art and architecture. His particular attention to placement, repetition, and the reflective properties of paint and metal are in constant dialogue with the spatial environment, an awareness that is experienced in the viewing space.
Tadaaki Kuwayama was trained in Tokyo in a Japanese style of traditional painting known as nihonga, the aesthetic principles of which he incorporated and ultimately rejected in the years following his move to the United States. Kuwayama states: “I never thought I was a Minimalist artist. That came later. Maybe art critics gave it that name. I wanted to make pure art without history. That’s what I wanted, and I still try to do it that way—my art has not changed much since those days.”According to the literature on his early years in New York, Kuwayama was influenced by Color Field paintings’ over-dimensional size and impersonal approach to chromatic tenets that declared painting as an object that transcends subjectivity and representation. Acquainted with Sam Francis, Donald Judd, and Frank Stella, it is not accidental that Kuwayama exhibited work at Green Gallery in 1961 and in emblematic group shows of the period such as the Guggenheim’s Systemic Painting in 1966.
Emerging in the 1960s as a historical and critical construction, Minimalism is a synonym for a broader art tendency also called ABC art, Literalism, Object Art, and Specific Objects, among other rubrics. The movement is mostly defined by its adversaries—notably, Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried, who provided the theoretical tools to frame Minimalism as a depersonalized and reductive variant of geometric art produced in the postwar era through industrial means. A few artists embraced the new tendency and provided discursive clues for the understanding of this “new sensibility,” as it was characterized by Barbara Rose, in which the presence of the spectator was crucial to complete a relational experience with the object within space.
This exhibition gathers an archipelago of key historic pieces that attest to Tadaaki Kuwayama’s journey from a gestural to an objective mode of abstraction. This path prompted him to bring together a groundbreaking investigation into chromatic potential as a tool that helped redefine the perceptual role of the audience. In this sense, Kuwayama contributed to expanding the limits of the art object as presence through the properties of color. His early paintings, made on paper and wood with organic pigments and silver and gold leaf, blend Japanese traditional methodologies and materials with an infinite sense of freedom that the artist continues to explore today. Influenced by American jazz music, Kuwayama merged his practice of monochrome with chance during his first years in New York. This strategy later evolved in the mid-1960s into serial works made with industrial materials and experimentation with paint application, in which the artist’s hand is removed, thus provoking an in-depth dialogue with space and architecture.
526 W. 26th Street, Suite 814
New York, NY 10001
March 10 - May 7, 2022
Opening Reception: March 10, 5 - 7 PM
Tuesday - Saturday, 11 AM - 6 PM
Plan your visit, contact:
+ 646 476 8409
Advance appointments are recommended
but not required.