Sadamasa Motonaga, ‘Green Form White Light’, 1990, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
“I have not graduated from Gutai’s way of thinking. I still want to do something new, that which has not existed before.”
Sadamasa Motonaga

In 1955, Sadamasa Motonaga joined the Gutai Art Association, an avant-garde collective committed to pursuing new possibilities in art that was founded and guided by Jiro Yoshihara. Motonaga debuted as a member in the groundbreaking show Experimental Outdoor Modern Art Exhibition to Challenge the Midsummer Burning Sun that same year when he poured ink-stained water into vinyl sheets to create vibrant teardrop-shaped forms that were hung from trees, causing the branches to sag. With this iconic outdoor project, Motonaga developed a motif that he would continue to explore throughout his career, both in the form of installation and in his use of colorful, organic shapes in painting.

Commanding in its size, meticulous execution and bold, saturated hues, Green Form White Light is a striking example of Motonaga’s seminal late work. In 1966 the artist moved to New York where he discovered Liquitex and the airbrush, higher quality materials and tools that he had not been using previously. These new mediums resulted in a stylistic shift away from his poured paint works to a more minimalist, hard-edge aesthetic with an increased focus on form that he continued to develop in Japan after his New York residency. The fluid, biomorphic shape of the present work is one that must have particularly intrigued Motonaga as he returned to it a number of times in varying colors and sizes, including in his work Piron Piron from 1975, which was included in the recent major exhibition of Motonaga and fellow Gutai artist Kazuo Shiraga at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2015, Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga. The impeccably executed color gradation and sharp contrast between the luminous green, orange and white hues against the deep black background bestow Green Form White Light with a distinctly contemporary aesthetic that is exemplary of Motonaga’s mature oeuvre and reflects his career-long dedication to the Gutai principles of creating uninhibited, fresh works of art.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated "S. Motonaga '90" lower right; further signed and titled "Sadamasa Motonaga Green Form White Light [in Japanese]" on the stretcher

Private Collection
Tokyo, SBI Art Auction Co., Ltd., October 24, 2015, lot 167
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

About Sadamasa Motonaga

Sadamasa Motonaga is an abstract painter best known for his involvement in the Gutai Group. Motonaga graduated from trade school; with aspirations to be a manga artist, he began to make figural and landscape works on canvas under the tutelage of painter Mankichi Hamabe. In 1952, he began to make abstract objects and paintings, which garnered him an invitation to join the Gutai exhibitions. One of his most famous works was a site-specific installation with pools of colored water suspended in vinyl tubes hanging from trees. From then, he experimented with water and smoke as ephemeral artistic materials. Inspired in part by tarashikomi techniques in traditional Japanese painting, he began to make paintings generated by chance, tilting canvases and pooling paint.

Japanese, 1922-2011, Ueno city