Christie’s is very pleased to open 2020 with two separate private selling exhibitions featuring the work of internationally renowned artist Tadaaki Kuwayama and the ethereal and meditative work of Rakuko Naito, on view from January 8-17. Married for over 60 years, Kuwayama and Naito moved from Tokyo to New York in 1958, where they currently live and work. Keeping separate practices, each artist expresses a minimalist aesthetic using their own unique lens – Kuwayama being focused on mechanically manufactured surfaces that conceal the artist’s hand and Naito centering her practice on the possibilities of natural forms and the fragility of her chosen medium, rice paper. Being shown in adjacent galleries at Christie’s New York, the exhibitions will present a survey of each artist’s career.
A purveyor of his own unique style of Minimalism, Tadaaki Kuwayama creates paintings and objects that become pure color, form, and presence in space. Lacking representation, hierarchy, or materiality, Kuwayama achieves a sense of objectivity and neutrality that studies the subtle variations of hue and their effects on space with his hand as hidden as possible.
Born in Japan in 1932, Kuwayama originally studied nihonga, a traditional form of Japanese painting on either paper or silk that uses naturally derived pigments to emphasize outlines and tonal modulation. He later abandoned the practice finding its traditions too restrictive.
Alongside Donald Judd, Anne Truitt, and Mark DiSuvero, among others, Kuwayama came into a particular Minimalist movement that was more expressive than its predecessors, grappling with a sort of existential meaninglessness derived from the burgeoning materiality of consumer culture. While many of his contemporaries focused on developing new methods to reject or challenge consumerism, Kuwayama set himself apart by trying to find a way to become even more minimal.
Through the 1960s, Kuwayama evolved, refining his painting practice to explore concepts of three-dimensionality and incorporate industrial materials. The absoluteness of spray paint’s finish, in particular, led Kuwayama to create depth in his exploration of hue, layering colors atop each other without any mark of his hand. Through the 1970s, Kuwayama reincorporated materials—notably metallic pigment—that were specific to the fine arts to create a shimmering, continually changing surface. His ongoing series, Projects, began in the 1990s and uses site-specific installations to explore space and perception through works of identical color and dimension.
In 1961, Kuwayama had his first solo exhibition at Green Gallery, an uptown venue in New York known for showing the work of the downtown avant-garde. In 1966, he became part of his first major exhibition, New Shapes of Color at the Stedlijk Museum alongside Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella, Robert Indiana and Donald Judd. Other notable shows include solo exhibitions in Japan, Switzerland, and Germany. His works were also included in group exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Works by Kuwayama are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. Rakuko Naito’s work is in the collections of the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut; the Kemper Art Collection, Chicago; and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Buenos Aires.
Emanating a distinct meditative quality, Rakuko Naito’s works emphasize the contemplation integral to the Minimalism movement. With a high degree of stylization and concentration, her practice aligns with principles of order and arrangement.
Born in Japan in 1935, Naito graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts. After moving to New York in 1958, she created a series of Optical works in the 1960s. Her practice evolved through the 1970s and 1980s with the creation of her Flowers series, leading into her renowned Minimalist Paper series, which she started in the late 1990s.
Naito’s Paper series is quintessentially Japanese, utilizing kozo washi, a delicate paper, alongside other natural materials such as wood and cotton. Meticulously arranging her materials within a shallow box, she creates a geometric vision, presenting the solemn existence of the pure and a clear sense of traditional Japanese beauty.
Though her works resemble those of Mel Bochner, Eve Hesse, and Sol Lewitt, Naito resides within her own niche of Minimalism, emphasizing material and process in a way that reflects a deep sense of introspection. In showcasing the malleability and strength of her materials, Naito produces works of a dynamic yet delicate capacity, exemplary of a new, reimagined take on Minimalism.
Since 1965, Naito has held solo exhibitions both in the United States and abroad, including Switzerland, Germany, France, and Japan. Her works are collected by art galleries and institutions across the United States and Europe.