Presenting Jiro Takamatsu’s first solo exhibition to be held in London, Stephen Friedman Gallery is very proud to host a group of rarely before seen works on paper alongside his celebrated Shadow Paintings, sculptures and installations dating from 1967 to 1997.
During Takamatsu’s career, which spanned over thirty years his considerable influence extended as an artist, theorist and teacher in Japanese post-war culture. He has been the subject of major solo retrospectives in Japan and this exhibition offers a timely re-evaluation of his practice following significant re-appraisals of Japanese avant-garde art all over the world.
The artist is renowned for a lifelong exploration that resulted in the celebrated ‘Shadow Paintings'. These works depict ‘absence', the invisible and the non-existent, causing us to question our perspective as we stand in front of them. Takamatsu began this critical enquiry in 1964, starting with the casting of real hooks on a canvas, and developing later to depict solitary figures and items removed from their original source. In one such work, the paired shadow of a woman's head and neck is delicately painted in tones of grey, so subtle that it almost appears to hover in your presence as you stand in the place of her figure.
Takamatsu began developing and expanding his own body of work, defining his personal practice as the ‘Expanding World Project', Takamatsu saw the role of the artist in the creation of devices to facilitate transcendence and alter everyday perception. This is exemplified in the pioneering Conceptual work ‘Light and Shadow' in this exhibition. Here, a light bulb radiates behind a metal board, casting its shadows onto the gallery walls and floor. Takamatsu exposes the artistic process, making the gesture and technique the artwork itself.
In the same year, he created the ‘Pole of Wave' series: sculptures which undulate and appear to move in our presence. If you view them from one side they appear entirely straight, and yet if viewed at different angles they become wavy and oblique. The title of the series emphasises the paradoxical: a pole is static and solid, whereas a wave is in constant, changing motion. Our interaction completes the work, as the sculptures transform in our presence and movement.
During the late 1960s, Takamatsu was a very important figure in the development of a trend known as ‘Mono-ha', literally translated as ‘School of Things'. Linking to Arte Povera and Post-Minimalism, Mono-ha extolled the use of natural materials and objects, emphasising the importance of materiality and the environment.
Such a thing is evident in the displayed ‘Oneness of Paper' works: single pieces of paper torn and reconstituted onto the page in bright blue, fluorescent pink and plain white paper. ‘Slack of Net' similarly features white cotton string tied into a grid and loosely laid across the floor. Its stark simplicity belies its conceptual undercurrent, as the work humorously plays on the minimal form.
Forming a crucial part of the exhibition is a wonderful selection of drawings and book designs which provide unique insight into Takamatsu's development as an artist. The series ‘In the Form of Square' features black gouache washes, demarcated by wavy and straight lines where the underlying paper is exposed.
Some other works included are from the ‘Perspective' and ‘Wave' series, where Takamatsu has experimented with the malleability of form to highlight the artifice of pictorial space. Mesmerising in their simplicity, the works represent and recall a period of exploration into optical illusion and visual ambiguity. Perfecting a revival of interest in Japanese avant-garde art, the exhibition offers a timely re-evaluation of this pioneer of Conceptual art who sought to manifest the world beyond our everyday reality.
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