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 Kazuo Nakamura  (1926 - 2002)

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Lived/Active: British Columbia/Ontario / Canada      Known for: abstract painting, murals, etching, and sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Kazuo Nakamura was a painter, etcher, muralist and sculptor who was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  During World War II, he was an interned Japanese Canadian at Tashme camp near Hope, B.C. (about 100 miles from Vancouver).  After the war he moved to Hamilton, Ontario and then to Toronto where he lived until his death.
 
His primary painting mediums were oil, watercolour, graphite, ink, mixed mediums and etching.  His sculpture mediums include concrete, plaster and steel.  His subjects were landscapes, cityscapes, figures,abstracts, and mathematics (number structure).  His styles included geometric semi abstract still life and landscapes using lyrical block strokes of paint; and minimalist abstracts, using fine lines, string, linear structures and monochromatic colours. His interest in number structure, and the quest for a universal pattern in art and nature, resulted in an evolution of his work to the point where, he produced works that featured rows of numbers.  Those interested in a more  in-depth understanding of his mature work’s style and subject matter will find it helpful to review Pascal’s Triangle. Quote "The contribution of the artist is to extend visual knowledge as a way of understanding our universe."
 
From 1948 to 1951 he studied art at Central Technical School in Toronto.  His teachers were Charles Goldhamer (see AskART), Peter Haworth (see AskART) and Doris McCarthy (see AskART). Two artists that influenced him were Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (see AskART) and his friend Jock MacDonald (see AskART).
 
Nakamura was a member of the Canadian Group of Painters (see AskART), the Canadian Society of Graphic Art, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and Painters Eleven (see AskART glossary for other members).
 
Even though his style and subject matter was quite different from theirs, his greatest claim to fame would have to be as a member of the Painters Eleven (see AskART glossary).  They were a group of Canadian abstract painters who took their cue from artists such as Jackson Pollock (see AskART) and de Kooning (see AskART), members of the New York School (see AskART glossary) of abstract expressionists.  The purpose of P11 was to promote abstract art in English Canada, primarily through joint exhibitions. They formed in 1953 and seven of them, including Nakamura, had a show in October of that year at The Robert Simpson Company Limited (a Toronto department store) titled “Abstracts at Home”. In February of 1954 all eleven combined for their first show at Roberts Gallery (Toronto). By the time they disbanded in 1960, the Eleven were a major force in establishing modern art in Canada and are still a major influence in the Canadian art market.  Their art is now a prized and prominent feature in many private, corporate and public collections throughout Canada. The last living member Tom Hodgson (see AskArt) died in 2006.
 
Since the focus of Nakamura’s work is different from the other P11 members, and indeed from all other Canadian art, future evaluations of his work could diminish the importance of the P11 association, and he may come to be viewed as a more unique stand alone source of creativity in Canadian art history.
 
In addition to showing with the above artist groups and at many commercial galleries Nakamura has also been included in numerous other group exhibitions, they include  the "First Biennial of Canadian Painting", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1955); the "Fourth International Exhibition of Drawings and Engravings", Lugano, Switzerland (prize winner) (1956); "Canadian Abstract", Smithsonian Tour, U.S.A. (1956-1957); "Canadian Abstract Paintings", National Gallery of Canada,  Ottawa (1956); "Painters Eleven & American Abstract Artists' Exhibition", Riverside Museum, New York (1956); the"Four Man Exhibition", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1957);"Canadian Contemporary Painting", Australian Tour (1957); "Canadian Paintings", Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, Texas (1958); the "First Inter-American Bienniale", Mexico City(1958); the "International Festival of Art", New York (1958); "Contemporary Canadian Art", Central Museum, Utrecht & Groningen Museum, Netherlands (1958); "Canadian Graphics and Drawings", Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (1959); the "20th Biennial International Watercolour Exhibition",  Brooklyn Museum, NY(1959); "Nakamura & Town", the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (1960); the "Fifth International Hallmark Art Award Exhibition", New York and international tour (1961); the "Second Biennal", Musee d'art Moderne, Paris (1961); "Recent Acquisitions, The Museum of Modern Art", New York (1963); the "First Biennial, Drawings and Watercolours", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1964); the "Cardiff Commonwealth Festival Exhibition", Wales (UK) (1965); the "Centennial Exhibition of Canadian Prints and Drawings", Australian Tour (1967); "Sculpture ' 67", Toronto (1967); the "Seventh Biennial of Canadian Painting", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1968); "Painters Eleven - 1953 to 1960", Robert Mclaughlin Gallery, Oshawa (1971); "Toronto Painting 1953-65", National Gallery of Canada & Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1972); the "Painters Eleven in Retrospective", Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, and Canadian tour (1979 –1981); the "Ontario Heritage Foundation's Firestone Collection", European Tour: London (UK), Paris, Madrid (1983 – 1984);"Toronto Painters of the Sixties", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1984); and the "Inaugural Exhibition", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1988).He also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1953 and 1954 and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from 1961 to 1964. A retrospective of his work called  “Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure” was held at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto in 2004.
 
His work is in many private, corporate and public collections. Some of the public collections are;the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario; the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba; the Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan; the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, N.B.; the London Regional Art Gallery, London, Ontario; the Hamilton Art Gallery, Ontario; the Kitchner-Waterloo Art Gallery, Ontario; the Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario; the  Sarnia Art Gallery, Ontario; the  Lugano Art Museum, Switzerland; the Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa; Hart House, University of Toronto; the Zacks Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario; and the Douglas Duncan Collection, Windsor, Ontario. His work in public spaces can be seen in two sculptures at Toronto's Lester Pearson International Airport, and a mural at Toronto’s Ontario Provincial Queen's Park Complex.
 
As a very prominent artist his work is discussed in most books about Canadian art history and modern art, there are also numerous magazine and newspaper articles.  He is listed in “ A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; in Jaques Cattell Press, "Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition"  (1982); in “Who’s Who in American Art 2001-2002", 24th Edition (2001), published by Marquis; in the 1999 and 2006 versions of “E. Benezit”; in “The Canadian Encyclopedia” (1985), Hurtig Publishers; and in “Canadian Who’s Who 1996” Volume XXX1, edited by Elizabeth Lumley.

 
His work is also illustrated and discussed in "Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection" (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; in “Contemporary Canadian Art” (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff; in “Art and Man – The Modern World” (1964) by P.H.Brieger, G.S.Vickers and F.E.Winter; in “The Development of Canadian Art” (1964), by R.H.Hubbard; in “Visions – Contemporary Art in Canada” (1983), various authors and editors; in “The History of Painting in Canada - Toward A Peoples Art” (1974) by Barry Lord; in “Canadian Art Today” (1970), by William Townsend; in "A Concise History of Canadian Painting" (1973), by Dennis Reid; in “Passionate Spirits: a history of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880-1980” (1980), by Rebecca Sisler; in “Great Canadian Painting – A Century of Art” (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn; in "Four Decades" (1972) by Paul Duval; in “Painting in Canada: a history” (1966) by J. Russell Harper; in ”Sculpture 67” (1968), by Dorothy Cameron and Don Wallace; in “An Anthology of Canadian Art”, by  R.H. Hubbard; in “On the Enjoyment of Modern Art”, by Jerrold Morris; and in “Painting & Sculpture in The Museum of Modern Art, 1929-1967”, by Alfred H. Barr Jr.
 
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke
 


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