Alison Bradley Projects presentS TADAAKI KUWAYAMA, curated by Gabriela Rangel.
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 the “minimalist” mode of post-painterly abstraction, Kuwayama’s commitment to non-compositional works and investigation of color, material, and space have always been on his own terms. The artist was interested in Color Field paintings, in particular the principle that paintings could be subjects in and of themselves. Kuwayama’s work considers the experience of perception—the interaction between his works and the audience within space is central to his practice. His distinctive style deliberates materiality itself, typified by monochrome compositions devoid of excessive and expressive elements.
Gabriela Rangel’s selection for TADAAKI KUWAYAMA 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 crucial 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.
Quickly establishing himself as an active member of the avant-garde in New York, Kuwayama was well acquainted with art world luminaries such as Kenzо̄ Okada, Sam Francis, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Frank Stella. His first solo show was held at Green Gallery in 1961, the prominent vanguard gallery run by eccentric art dealer Richard Bellamy, and his striking work was included in Systemic Painting, the emblematic exhibition organized by art critic Lawrence Alloway at the Guggenheim in 1966. Kuwayama has been the subject of countless solo and group exhibitions around the world, and his work is included in the collections of institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum and MoMA in New York, the Foundation for Constructivist, Concrete and Conceptual Art in Zurich, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.
Tadaaki Kuwayama currently works and resides in New York City with his wife and fellow artist Rakuko Naito.