Mokuma Kikuhata, A Song for Spring 3, 2015, oil on canvas, 8' 6" × 19'.

Mokuma Kikuhata

Kaikai Kiki Gallery

Mokuma Kikuhata, A Song for Spring 3, 2015, oil on canvas, 8' 6" × 19'.

When Takashi Murakami opened his Kaikai Kiki Gallery in 2008, it was natural to assume that the program would be all Superflat all the time. That hasn’t been the case. In particular, over the past year or so the gallery has organized a number of quietly impressive exhibitions for older artists who operate outside Murakami’s usual circuit, from the lauded Mono-ha figurehead Lee Ufan to the underappreciated abstract painter Kazumi Nakamura. The latest entry in this informal series is Mokuma Kikuhata.

Born in 1935 in Nagasaki, on the island of Kyushu, Kikuhata rose to stardom in the early-1960s anti-art scene in Tokyo, where he became known for totemic sculptural installations and mixed-media assemblage paintings. Soon enough, however, Kikuhata repudiated the postwar avant-garde, dedicating himself instead to researching the work of the naive coal-miner artist Sakubei Yamamoto, and

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