Art in Wonderland


Artists: Eisaku Tanaka, Shintaro Tanaka, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, Yuri Nonaka, Yutaka Hatta, Yoichi Hirata, Kei Hiraga, Michio Fukuoka, Shigeo Fukuda, Masakazu Horiuchi, Josaku Maeda, Yutaka Matsuda, Tomio Miki, Teruo Miyagi, Aiko Miyawaki, Shuji Mukai, Yoshio Murakami, Akira Mokubo, Ryohei Yanagihara, Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, Keigo Yamamoto, Kazuo Yuhara, Minoru Yoshida, Toshio Yoshida, Michio Yoshihara, Masunobu Yoshimura, Makoto Wada, Hiroshi Akana, Genpei Akasegawa, Shoji lida, Takamichi lto, Takayasu lto, Bukichi Inoue, Norio Imai, Kumiko Imanaka, Kazuo Okazaki, Taro Okamoto, Shinjiro Okamoto, Yukiko Katsura, Joji Kikunami, Mokuma Kikuhata, Yoji Kuri, Nobuaki Kojima, Masaru Konno, Yoshishige Saito, Morio Shinoda, Ushio Shinohara, Kazuo Shiraga, Shin Shingu, Kohei Sugiura, Yoshinori Suzuki, Yoshio Sekine, Shu Takahashi, Soshichi Takama, Jiro Takamatsu, Minami Tada and Masatoshi Tamaki

Shinjiro Okamoto

Born in Tokyo in 1933. After graduating from the Tokyo Metropolitan Nihonbashi High School in 1952, Okamoto worked for 26 years as an art director at Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. During this time, he began to teach himself watercolor painting, and started submitting his work to the Japan Watercolor Exhibition and the Niki Exhibition. He held his first solo exhibition at Muramatsu Gallery in 1956 and also founded the “Seisaku Kaigi (Artist Conference)” that same year along with Yoshie Yoshida and others. An encounter with the Neo-Impressionist works of Georges Seurat inspired him to depict contemporary illness and malaise using bright, vivid colors and simple forms. In 1956, Okamoto exhibited at the Yomiuri Independent Exhibition. He received honorable mentions at the Shell Art Prize Exhibition in both 1962 and 1963, and the Grand Prix at the exhibition for the inaugural Nagaoka Contemporary Art Museum Prize in 1964. During this time, he exhibited a series of works including “Holy Scenery” and “Ten Indians” that conceal a sense of hollow emptiness beneath a humorous surface. Okamoto has shown his work at several museums both in Japan and abroad. He participated in the “Trends in Contemporary Art” exhibition held at the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto (1964), “15 Contemporary Japanese Artists” at the Kunsthaus Zurich (1965), and “The New Japanese Painting and Sculpture” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1966). In 1968, Okamoto visited the US at the invitation of the Japan Society, touring New York and other American cities as well as Europe. In 1969, he received the Frontier Prize at the “Contemporary Japanese Art” exhibition. Okamoto has also held numerous one-man shows, including “The World of Shinjiro Okamoto: 25 Years” at the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art (1979), “The World of Shinjiro Okamoto – Tokyo Shonen” at the Niigata City Art Museum (1988), “Shinjiro Okamoto - The Laughing Panorama Museum” at the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama (1998), “Shinjiro Okamoto – Laughing Snow, Moon and Flower (Roly-Poly Cherry Blossoms)” at the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art (2001), and “Shinjiro Okamoto’s Panoramic Humour Universe (The Philosophy of Humour 1950-2001)” at Tokyo Gallery + BTAP Beijing (2008). Okamoto is a well-known Japanese pioneer of Pop Art.

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Yoshio Sekine

Yoshio Sekine was born in Wakayama, Japan. Sekine met the influential painter Jiro Yoshihara (1905-1972) through the Jiyu Bijutsu Kyoukai (Free Artists' Association) and was involved in the founding of the avant-garde Gutai group in 1954. In 1955, Sekine participated in The 7th Yomiuri Independent Exhibition. In 1958, his work was selected for an exhibition curated by Michel Tapié (1909-1987), The International Art of a New Era: Informel and Gutai, which launched at the Takashimaya Department Store in Osaka and then travelled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Sekine left Gutai and moved to Tokyo in 1959. At The 15th Yomiuri Independent Exhibition in 1963, he presented a painting of an abacus for the first time. From this point, Sekine went on to build his oeuvre around recurring motifs such as abacuses, gates, rail wagons and Mt. Fuji. His other notable exhibitions include Trends in Contemporary Art: Paintings and Sculptures (the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, 1964), The 2nd Nagaoka Contemporary Art Museum Award Exhibition (Nagaoka-shi, Niigata, 1965) and The 1960’s: A Decade of Change in Contemporary Japanese Art (the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1981, later travelling to the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto). Sekine also received the prestigious Mainichi Art Award in 1952.

The abacus was perhaps the most prominent subject in Sekine's artistic career. He produced many works iterating this motif in a diverse range of colour schemes and compositions until his later years. Abacus beads can be moved and rearranged, each configuration signifying a number. Because of this reconfigurability and semiotic function, abacus beads make an intriguing motif for generating geometric compositions. In some of his works, the bead configuration indicates the date the work was completed. Through such play on a numerical sign system, Sekine's depictions of abacuses seem to turn to abstraction. Simultaneously, these works could also be seen as representational images that bring out the abstract qualities inherent to the abacus itself, achieving a new kind of 'realism' that transcends traditional illusionism.

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