Octavia Art Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works from New York-based artist Kikuo Saito.
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 known for his poetic theater works that incorporated costumes, light, music and dance. His knowledge of choreography and stage direction have directly influenced his approach to painting. Typically, he paints on the floor, circling and moving over the canvas to create each composition. The resultant works are rhythmic, gestural and expressionistic. In the catalog essay for the exhibition, 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.”
The exhibition will include paintings and works on paper spanning thirty years. The earlier paintings feel reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy in their controlled yet fluid mark-marking and simultaneously harken back to Frankenthaler, Louis and Noland’s work through the employment of their soak stain painting technique. The bulk of work presented will concentrate on Saito’s two main series: his boldly gestural abstract paintings and those that explore two-dimensionality through rows of freely drawn letters that appear to be both unfixed yet arranged by an underlying grid. In the artist’s most recent paintings, his gestural style and the “alphabet” paintings seem to have merged, and as Karen Wilkin describes, the paintings “are still constructed with a fluent, seductive touch…built with layers of exuberant marks, strokes, and stabs of the brush, some assertive, some refined. But instead of…swirls and scoops, Saito now concentrates on long, fluid lines.”
Saito has had solo and group exhibitions 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.