Born in Tokyo three decades apart, Japanese artists Taku Aramasa and Yoshishige Saito were deeply affected by World War II. Saito, a sculptor who was born in 1904, lost most of his early career to the war, while Aramasa, a photographer who was born in 1936, became a refugee at an early age and lost touch with his parents. This month at London’s Annely Juda Fine Art, both artists take the spotlight in “Yoshishige SAITO: The Path to Danpen” and “ARAMASA Taku: Horizon.”
Never having attended art school, Yoshishige Saito was inspired to become an artist after seeing an exhibition of Russian avant-garde art in Tokyo. Particularly drawn to Constructivism, Saito developed his own style of plywood relief sculptures, and achieved a post-war comeback after receiving Japan’s prestigious New Artist’s Prize in 1957. He launched onto the international scene after receiving honorable mention for the 1960 Guggenheim International Prize (won by Karel Appel that year) and went on to show at Venice and São Paulo Biennales. On view at Annely Juda are 10 of the artist’s later works, beginning in the 1980s and ending in 2001, the year the artist died. Ranging from wall-mounted works dimensionality to large, freestanding sculptures that engage the gallery space, the exhibition represents the artist’s bold, balanced style, characterized by simple forms in dynamic arrangements, questioning spatial aesthetics. At the heart of show is Danpen, the last work Saito ever created, a vibrant, spirited composition of red lacquer plates, and a poignant finish to the artist’s life and career.
While he returned to Japan after World War II in 1947, Taku Aramasa was estranged from his parents, and didn’t with them until 1980; themes of estrangement and isolation run throughout his artistic career. Inspired by his own experience, Aramasa launched a photographic effort, focusing on Japanese communities in Hawaii and South America, to help war orphans reunite with their parents. In 2000 his “HORIZON” project led him back to Japan, where he sought to capture landscapes that were untouched by human and animal life. Two series within this project are on view at Annely Juda; “The Border” consists of two to four individual photographs fit together to create a single image, while works in “Visible Transfiguration” are manipulations where shadow is blended with reflection, and likewise light with dark. A cornerstone of the exhibition is OROgraphy, Aramasu’s original technique of printing his images on clear film, and then backing them with gold leaf, resulting in luminous compositions where foreground melds into background.