Mokuma Kikuhata
“A Song for Spring”

September 26, 2015 – October 23, 2015
Gallery Hours :11:00 – 19:00
Gallery Closed:
Sunday, Monday, Public Holiday
Reception:September 26, 2015 18:00 – 20:00

A Song for Spring 1, 2015
Oil on canvas
2590 x 5820 mm

Kaikai Kiki Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition by contemporary artist Mokuma Kikuhata, opening on Saturday, September 26.

Mokuma Kikuhata is both a prolific artist and an essential touchstone for any discussion of post war Japanese contemporary art. With his piece Slave Genealogy being a primary example, Kikuhata’s inclusion in the Kyushu-ha movement, whose name is drawn simply from the fact that the artists were from Kyushu, meant that the direction and concept behind his work were never subject to full understanding, even as he became a fairly known figure within the contemporary art scene.

Despite this, his stance as an artist is incredibly clear. He spent his years examining the question of how Japanese should live in the aftermath of their defeat in the war, exploring the issue through his art and many other practices. In his time as an educator at the Bigakko contemporary art institute, in his discovery of the work of coal mine artist Sakuheibei Yamamoto and subsequent devotion to its exposure, and in his use of the work of Fujita Tsuguharu to analyze the relationship of the post war art world and society, his method of expression has always examined the hearts and souls of those who lived on.

Because Kikuhata’s movement made a point of Kyushu’s remoteness relative to Tokyo, he was not influenced by passing trends and was, I believe, able to walk his own artistic path, one step at a time. Today, 70 years after the end of Japan’s surrender, the nation is once again facing questions of its future involvement with the act of war. No artist has thematically explored those questions – of art, war, and mankind – more thoroughly than Mokuma Kikuhata.

In the new pieces presented at this exhibition, Kikuhata finds himself released from that long spell and focuses on the fundamental human questions at the heart of art – questions of beauty, its meaning, and whether it and art are one and the same. To see this new work is to enter a realm of emptiness, akin to zen painting, wherein we are invited to a place of absolute freedom.

I hope you will come and experience this new realm for yourself.

— Takashi Murakami

<Regarding the exhibition>

The four works in this exhibition took over three years to complete and are all from a new series entitled ” A Song for Spring”. Each piece is 2m x 6m in size.

“A Song for Spring” is a follow up to the “Spring WInd” series which the artist created for his 2011 retrospective organized jointly by the Fukuoka Art Museum and the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. The artist explains:

“As I’ve gotten older, I no longer feel the need to make confrontational work. Instead, I’ve tried for something that’s softer and overflowing with a kind of plump human kindness. But that sort of thing is much harder than it sounds. Thats’s why most of us in contemporary art avoid it. That sort of elegant, dream like, lyrical work. That’s why I titled the series after a children’s song. These are my last large-scale works. If we think in musical terms, I’m near the finale of the fourth movement.”

As a young man, Kikuhata spent his days drawing caricatures and painting decorative plates, while also sharing an atelier and self-training himself in painting by night. In 1957, he became one of the core members of the newly founded avant garde art collective Kyushu-ha and later one of the most recognized members of the anti-art movement. In 1958 & 60, he was featured in the 10th and 12th editions of the Yomiuri Andepandan exhibition. In 1961, he unveiled Slave Genealogy, a piece which involved the scattering of 10 kilograms worth of 5 yen coins, at the exhibition Gendai Bijutsu no Jikenten. In 1962, he held his first solo exhibition at Nan Garou, while his second solo show in 1964, Roulette, delved into an analysis of daily life by featuring 30 works composed of household items like toothbrushes and various junk, earning him attention as one of the most exciting artists of his day.

Despite this, in the late 1960’s, he shifted from the front lines of the art scene to a position more behind the scenes. While he never stopped creating work, his main activities in this period include researching the artwork of Fukuoka coal miner
Sakuheibei Yamamoto and publishing a critique of Japanese war paintings. In this way, he traced a critical history of art in Japan post modernism.

Since the 1970’s, Kikuhata has taught at Bigakko, a Tokyo art institue founded by Shinchosa, in addition to doing art direction for public spaces around the city and continuing work on many varieties of art object. In 1983, he returned to the forefront of the art world with Ptolemaic Theory, a series of large-scale paintings. He followed this with several other series of large works. He has continued to live in Fukuoka, where he keeps a critical distance from the trends of the Tokyo scene and develops his own unique style of painting.

Now at the age of 80, we are proud to introduce the artist’s latest series, imbued with a ‘lyricism’ newly gained at the end of a long artistic life.