Kuroda Seitaro: From Asia Jipang

When 2 Dec 2010 - 30 Dec 2010
Where HPGRP Gallery
529 W 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
United States
Enquiry 212 727 2491

Live Painting by Seitaro Kuroda & PIKADON Live New York, October 5th 2005.  Featuring Toshinori Kondo, John Zorn, Bill Laswell.  Courtesy of the artist, PIKADON Project and HPGRP Gallery New York


December 2-30, 2010

Opening Reception: December 2nd, 6-8pm

Press Release:

This show will focus on the body of work that Kuroda made in New York from the 1990s until the present, and most especially on the “live” paintings, which are performance compositions created in front of an audience, often with the accompaniment of music composed by musicians from around the world. The paintings focus on the theme of Pikadon, which is the Japanese slang word for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Although the work uncovers the uncomfortable memory of the trauma itself, which many Japanese people have tried to suppress, it also offers a way for them to reconcile with the past, to participate collectively and globally in a spiritual encounter with the event. The exhibition will include two large-scale paintings created during Kuroda’s performance at The Kitchen in New York in 2005, along with a documentary video about the artist himself and one of his collaborators, avant-garde musician Toshinori Kondo.

Kuroda is an artist who cannot be pinned down to one genre. Rather, he is a polymath, a man who has experimented in every medium—film, music, drawing, illustration and painting—and whose career expands beyond the field of art. Born in 1939 in Osaka, Japan, Kuroda was a young child during the Second World War, although the experience greatly affected his later work, as it did for many of his contemporaries. Originally introduced to the art world as an illustrator in the 1960s, Kuroda later became a beloved cultural icon in Japan. In 1969, he founded the firm K2 with Keisuke Nagatomo, which pioneered the graphic design movement in Japan. Today, K2 remains one of the most successful and universally admired design firms in the world. What sets Kuroda apart from other artists, besides his success, is the singularity of his line, the way that his work, and most especially his drawings, never fails to bear the mark of his hand. There is no title for an artist like Kuroda. He is an original, an entire genre unto himself.

Although easy comparisons can be made between Kuroda’s live paintings and the action paintings of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollack, Kuroda’s work is unique because it incorporates elements of performance. Usually composed in front of an audience that witnesses the event in a darkened space for roughly 60 minutes, the experience of the performance is akin to that of watching a shaman draw an object out of thin air. There is something primal and elemental about the way that Kuroda channels not only his own subconscious, but also the energy of the audience into his paintings, building line upon line before the spectator’s eyes. The space of the live painting performance thus becomes spiritual, the layers of paint the expression of a collective will. The final paintings look like figures drawn on a cave wall in prehistoric times. They bear the traces of tragedy, the memory of pikadon expressed in mushroom clouds, screaming faces, and disembodied hands.

The Japanese slang term “pikadon” is composed of two separate words: “pika” for the flash of light when the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, and “don” for the loud boom that followed it. Kuroda’s Pikadon paintings were first introduced in the United States in 2005, with his performance of the “Pikadon Project” at the Kitchen in New York. Attended by notable guests such as Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, the Pikadon Project made Japan’s responsibility to remember the atomic bomb into a global concern. By doing so, Kuroda took steps to insure that the catastrophe will never be repeated.

Two of the paintings that will be exhibited at the hpgrp Gallery were created at the Pikadon Project performance. It is the first time that they will be exhibited without Kuroda himself being present. A video record of the event that was recorded and edited by Toshiaki Ozawa will accompany them. The video serves to capture the moment that the paintings were created, showing how each layer built upon the one that preceded it to form the final works. It highlights the concept that history is contemporaneous with the present—the paintings by Kuroda may have been made in the past, but through Ozawa’s videos, the viewer can experience their creation again. Other videos of Kuroda at work by Ozawa will also be included in the exhibition, although they will be featured less prominently, on smaller monitors. The entire gallery space will be darker than usual to create better conditions for viewing the video works.

For more information please visit www.hpgrpgallery.com.