ACG Reflections 1: Lines – Yasue Kodama, Hitoshi Nakazato, Yutaka Hatta – ACG 20th Anniversary Vol. 1
First term: 2023.1.24 [tue] - 2.10 [fri] / Second term: 2.24 [fri] - 3.18 [sat] 11:00-18:00 (Saturdays -17:00) Closed on Sun, Mon, national holidays and the term between Feb. 11 and 23. *The works on display will be partially changed between the two terms.
Following our ACG Eyes exhibition series, which introduces up-and-coming artists, ACG reflections will focus on the fascinating expressions of artists with distinguished careers and reexamine their historical significance. With the hindsight gained from the years that have elapsed since these works were created and first exhibited, we can glean new generational insights through a contemporary lens. Through this reevaluation, we can unveil unexpected commonalities in which these works resonate with each other through different mediums and geographic locations. We endeavor to create a scope, relationality, and place to make such reflections possible in this exhibition and in those that will follow.
The first exhibition of ACG reflections will showcase the works of three prominent painters: Yasue Kodama (1961- ), Hitoshi Nakazato (1936-2010), and Yutaka Hatta (1930- ). Each artist brings their distinct perspective and style, with Kodama’s early career marked by her characteristic brushstrokes, evident in her natura morta series; Nakazato’s transition from lines to colored planes in the 1970s; and Hatta’s engraved works of the 1960s and his paper mulberry works in the 2000s. Each artist's disparate artistic philosophies and historical backgrounds are vividly projected onto these works, highlighting their unique pictorial expression. However, it is evident that the utilization of “lines” is a common element in their artistic lexicon. This exhibition offers an opportunity to delve into the profound implications of the seemingly simple act of drawing a line on a canvas and how the perception of lines shapes the compositional space for these three artists, all of whom brought a contemplative and dedicated approach to the medium of painting.
Artists and their works
The through-line of Yasue Kodama’s artistic trajectory has been her exploration of the essence of “what it means to exist.” Her oeuvre spans a range of styles, from her refined still life paintings of the 1980s, through her abstract period of the 1990s, to her more recent oscillation of her pictorial expression between abstraction and figurative representation evident in her works from the late 1990s and beyond. The totality of her works reflects her ongoing inquiry as she sets her sights on capturing “herself, in the here and now” and the world that surrounds her subjects.
This exhibition presents Kodama’s natura morta series, produced at the end of the 1980s, which is an embodiment of her departure to the abstract from the representational images of bottles and stones of her earlier works. While the photo-realistic subjects of her past remain, in these works, their contours are blurred by the movements of her brushstrokes. With this pictorial language, independent from the real world, Kodama dissolve her motifs into nebulous figures composed of an accumulation of lines. This series evokes a struggle between what we can see and what we cannot. It is an attempt to encounter the depths of existence, or rather an “unknowable existence,” by revealing a pictorial dimension that does not rely solely on the world available to our eyes, a clear prefiguration of the methodology common to her later works.
Hitoshi Nakazato first went to the United States from Japan in 1962. After temporarily returning to Japan, he went back to the U.S. in 1971. He established himself in New York City, where he began his exploration of the possibilities of a new two-dimensional expression using lines and colored planes. He accomplished this by applying the image-making techniques and methodology of printmaking to his production of painting which was his primary medium.
During his temporary return to Japan from 1968 to 1971, Nakazato produced works characterized by their linear monochromatic style. These works resulted from critically examining his own production attitude and dismantling the existing framework surrounding painting. Through this examination, Nakazato confronted the social conditions of that historical period marked by anti-establishment values. As such, Nakazato adopted a systematic production theory based on printmaking, which he had studied in the United States, and applied it to his artistic production by employing methods that included the use of a stringed carpentry tool to apply linear markings on canvas and drawing lines on 2000 sheets of paper. Despite the minimalistic nature of these works, they evoke an awareness of the materiality and physicality of painting. Nakazato’s experiments with lines culminated in the creation of a powerful and concise body of work that adhered to his artistic underpinnings which included works with linear diagonal markings on canvas which were employed “not for some illusory effect, nor for the phenomenon of the material itself, but as a plane that is simply a plane.”  After he returned to the U.S. in 1971, Nakazato’s artistic expression transitioned to coloring the areas between lines. Through this process, he examined the relationship between lines and colored planes and the relationship between colored planes. In effect, he was redefining the deconstructed pictorial space he had previously created through his use of lines. Nakazato’s bold colored brush strokes often leave his pictorial planes unfilled, and he often paints over the boundaries he makes. The lines he draws with oil sticks sometimes waver, and he freely rearranges geometric compositions; he deliberately pursues the dissimilation of his self-constructed system of lines and colored planes. His approach has produced a multitude of two-dimensional works loaded with a dynamic tension inherent in the reciprocal interactions between pictorial structure and his manipulation of tangible lines and colors.
This exhibition presents a focused examination of Nakazato’s artistic development throughout the 1970s. On display will be a selection of his early works, composed entirely of lines while he was in Japan; his works exhibited in 1979 that employ lines and monochromatic colored planes; and works from his transitional period that connect the two, thought to be created in the middle of the 1970s.
Yutaka Hatta, a painter based in Fukui Prefecture, began his artistic career in the early 1950s. Despite losing his eyesight in the 1980s, he has persisted in his creative pursuits, utilizing his sense of hearing and touch in the production of his work.
While various avant-garde art movements emerged in the postwar period, absorbing information from abroad, Hatta was determined “to experiment with materials cultivated in the Japanese climate on the pictorial surface to create new art." He sought an expression distinct from the popular movements of the time, such as Art Informel, and from the mid-1960s, he abandoned canvas, paints, and paintbrushes. Inspired by Japanese patterns and old kokutani ceramics designs, Hatta invented an original technique of engraving geometric figures based on circles on pulp boards and metal plates, which have received widespread recognition through his numerous exhibitions and awards. After losing his eyesight, he has continued to produce color works in which he controls the aleatoric phenomenon of dripping paint by relying on his sense of hearing. In his works that use kôzo, paper mulberry, the tactility and materiality of the material are his subject matter. Despite the odds, his unwavering creative spirit persists to this day. In the series titled Flow, which began at the end of the 1990s and continues to the present, he pastes the bark of kôzo trees in lines that fill the whole of the canvas, evoking not only the strength of the material but the climate in which it was nurtured, even the supple flow of water and air itself. It seems to embody what Hatta has attained through his journey as a creator in the face of adversity.
This exhibition showcases Hatta's rich world, featuring his engraving works of the 1960s, widely considered a significant milestone in his artistic career, and his more recent kôzo works from the 2000s entitled Flow. Through these works, we hope you can witness the evolution of Hatta's creative endeavors woven together by the common conceptual thread of his repetitive use of lines that has been a defining characteristic of his artistic expression throughout his seven decades as a creator.
Hitoshi Nakazato, “Tokusyū: Hatsugen ’72 = Sōzō no genten” [Special Feature: Statement ’72 = Sources of Creation], Mizue, No. 804, Bijutsu Shuppansha, January 1972, p. 48.
Yasue Kodama, Hitoshi Nakazato, Yutaka Hatta