Opening reception: February 8, 6 – 8 PM
Octavia Art Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works from the late artist Kikuo Saito. The exhibition is a survey of the diverse body of work Saito created in the last 40 years of his life, from 1978 – 2016. Paintings included in this exhibition explore the distinctive styles of color field abstraction that Saito developed and worked with over his expansive career.
Kikuo Saito was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1939 and moved to New York City in 1966. As a young man, he was a studio assistant to Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland and Larry Poons. Along with his painting practice, Saito is recognized for his poetic theater works that incorporated costumes, light, music and dance. His knowledge of choreography and stage direction directly influenced his approach to painting. Typically, he painted on the floor, circling and moving over the canvas to create each composition. The resultant works are rhythmic, gestural and expressionistic. As art critic Karen Wilkin explains, "We discover that characters from his stage pieces have been reincarnated as abstract configurations within his paintings, reborn as the records of animated gestures that retain the individuality of their sources. The backdrop of a performance has influenced the layout and the component elements of paintings. The slow rhythms of a stage piece have somehow been transubstantiated into a slow accretion of marks across a surface.”
Included in this exhibition are a variety of styles that Saito utilized throughout his career. The artist often worked in the soak stain technique that he learned from artist Helen Frankenthaler while working as her studio assistant. Within the soak stain technique, flat and deeply saturated bodies of color are juxtaposed against minimal textural paint strokes. He was also known to deconstruct text in his abstract compositions. These paintings were born out of Saito’s communication barrier as a Japanese man learning the English language. His gestural color field paintings reflect the sensibilities of New York School of abstract expressionism, his work in dance and theatre. What carries through Saito’s body of work is his bold and harmonious embrace of color, movement and mark making. In addition to his works on canvas, the exhibition will include a selection of drawings on handmade paper, the collaboration between the artist and his mentor, Kenneth Noland.
The artist’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. His work is included in public and private collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Aldrich Museum, Connecticut; Duke University Museum of Art, North Carolina; AT&T Collection, New York; Estee Lauder Collection, New York; J.P. Morgan Chase Collection, New York, and the World Bank, Washington, D.C.
Octavia Art Gallery is proud to be working with the Estate of Kikuo Saito to promote his legacy of color field and abstract expressionist painting.