Los Angeles

“Eight from Japan”

Bryant M. Hale Galleries

This exhibit is a fascinating combination of the traditional Japanese techniques with contemporary overtones. Small but comprehensive, it is a survey of recent works by “62-So,” a group of artists from the age of 20 to 50 years, who organized in 1962. The movement began with a total denial of contemporary Japanese art: they believed modern Japanese styles, far from being original, were merely derivative. Stemming from traditionalism and cultural nationalism, artist-members of “62-So,” use “Iwayenogu” (Japanese paint), and, “Nikawa” (glue), as their main media. However, their philosophy is not to repeat the values set up in the past, but to re-evaluate the old techniques, and by exploration, extend the content of their works to a new dimension.

Masao Yamanoto’s figurative social comment, Rich Man, is an unusual combination of traditional Japanese caricature, a folk art derivative, and action painting, as are his other figurative works. Gagyu Ueda begins each work by sketching from nature, often choosing clouds and trees from which he abstracts dynamic contours, juxtaposing shapes and space with the device of dark against brilliant paint to create the effect of moving nature elements. The only woman exhibitor, Reiko Mitsuda, works in monotones with strong “Sho” (calligraphic) statements and a Dekarkomani-like blotting of ink which creates a reflection of infinite space and deep spiritual preoccupation. Seiho Mizukami’s black and white swirls and convolutions are reminiscent of the continuous ebb and flow of tides and air currents. Geographical in form, Mosei Nohara’s paintings are composed of surface division by lines. Done in Japanese paint, glue and ink, his ordered patterns show a strong Western abstractionist influence. Syosaku Arao is more traditionally oriental in his use of space and choice of content. Miyako Sekikawa’s approach is to structure color patterns imprinted with bronze-powder and incised with sgraffito symbols.

The most outstanding paintings in the exhibition are a series called “My Town,” by Masaki Sugahara who uses ground rock, glue and silver leaf with Japanese paint glazes to compose architectural structures and ancient ruins which rise from a surface of cracked earth. The only decorative touch is Sugahara’s preoccupation with the Greek Key motif which he incises on all his surfaces––a reminder that this classical symbol originated in ancient China and later became a part of Japanese calligraphic art.

––Betje Howell