Critics’ Picks

Yuichi Inoue, untitled, 1970, ink on paper, 17 x 27”. From the “Hana” (Flower) series, 1970.

Yuichi Inoue, untitled, 1970, ink on paper, 17 x 27”. From the “Hana” (Flower) series, 1970.


Yuichi Inoue

8/ ART GALLERY/ Tomio Koyama Gallery
2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku Shibuya Hikarie 8F
September 18–October 7, 2013

During his long career, the celebrated avant-garde calligrapher Yuichi Inoue gained international recognition for his bold brushstrokes. Trained under the master avant-garde calligrapher Sokyu Ueda, Inoue became associated with Abstract Expressionism and was featured in major exhibitions in the 1950s, including one at the Museum of Modern Art and “Abstract Art – Japan and the USA,” which toured Japan and Europe. In fact, Inoue was one of the first Japanese artists to be embraced by a postwar Western audience.

Ten of his large works are currently on view at Tomio Koyama Gallery in the Kiyosumi art complex, while another ten of his smaller works from his “hana” (flower) series are showing at Koyama’s second Tokyo location at Shibuya Hikarie. Although it may seem like these works are caught between tradition and modernity, Inoue belonged to a school of thought that believed in calligraphy’s relevance on a global scale, not just limited to an audience who could read kanji characters. His dynamic compositions consist of a single character, such as kaze (wind), yume (dream), or ue (above), the latter being the ue of his surname. However, these symbols are not always legible and the brushstrokes seem to take precedence over any literal meaning. The “hana” series all use the same Chinese character for flower, which allows viewers to compare and contrast the incredible variations in Inoue’s delivery. The combination of minimal semantics and thick, black accents gives Inoue’s works their instantly recognizable and timeless style.

This show is also on view at Tomio Koyama Gallery Kiyosumi until September 28, 2013.