Sadamasa Motonaga, Two in Order, 1985, oil on canvas, 23 7/8 × 19 3/4".

Sadamasa Motonaga

Fergus McCaffrey

Sadamasa Motonaga, Two in Order, 1985, oil on canvas, 23 7/8 × 19 3/4".

One of the coolest pieces of ephemera in the catalogue accompanying this exhibition of Sadamasa Motonaga’s later work is the artist’s “My Abstract Manga Manifesto,” a sequence of four line drawings published in a 1963 edition of Bijutsu techō, a Japanese art journal. Consisting of wordless, biomorphic shapes, the illustrations lay out the knowingly “low” and faintly obscene mode of abstract painting that would become central to the artist’s practice until his death in 2011.

Born in 1922, Motonaga joined the Gutai group in 1955, parting ways with the avant-garde movement a year before its dissolution in 1972. A lifelong fan of manga, Motonaga had let a cartoonish sensibility permeate his work early on—see, for example, the unmodulated white plane of Sakuhin 66-2, 1966 (the only Gutai-era work in this show). After his departure from Gutai, this quality of his work became explicit,

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