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 Kenzo Okada  (1902 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: New York / Japan      Known for: geometric non ob-landscape painting, mural

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Ad Code: 2
Kenzo Okada
from Auction House Records.
Double Landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Kenzo Okada, born in Yokahoma, Japan in 1902 as the son of a wealthy industrialist enjoyed a privileged life in Japan.  Okada attended Tokyo Fine Arts University where he painted in traditional realist style.  Despite his parent's apprehension towards his career in art, determination brought Okada to Paris in 1924, where he studied with fellow Japanese expatriate, Tsuguji Fujita.  Then in 1927, he returned to Japan to host his first one-man show, as a realist painter, at the Michido Gallery in Tokyo.  He also painted murals for the Hilton Hotel in Tokyo.

He emigrated to the United States and arrived in New York in 1950, during the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement.  His work underwent complete transformation.  He became an abstract painter in the American fashion, but with an inexpressible Oriental nature, "with textures reminiscent of Japanese fabric and the subtle, exquisite coloration of traditional Japanese painting."

Later his work incorporated the knowledge of Zen, piercing with form and color and often incorporating figurative elements inspired by the ancient Japanese Noh drama. Okada's work uses characteristics of Yugenism (from the Japanese word yugen) referring to Japanese aesthetic values that emphasize suggestiveness.  Using Western style canvases to express such themes, Okada would paint in white, hinting at the "void" often used in Japanese traditional paintings to show depth

Okada enjoyed phenomenal success throughout his lifetime.  He was awarded prizes from some of the most prestigious American art institutions, and his works were exhibited at leading galleries and museums.  He became a United States citizen in 1960, and died in 1982.  His work has been credited with forming a bridge between the abstract qualities found in Eastern and Western art.

Sources include:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Kenzo Okada was born in Yokohama, Japan on September 28, 1902, the son of a wealthy industrialist. He enjoyed a privileged life in Japan. He attended Tokyo Fine Arts University where he painted in traditional realist style.  Despite his parents' apprehension toward his career in art, he went to Paris in 1924 and studied with fellow Japanese expatriate, Tsuguji Fugita.  In 1927 he returned to Japan.

Kenzo Okada came to the United States in 1950; before that move his forms were derived from landscapes and figures.  But for a man who ulimately decided that he wanted to paint the interior of his own mind, the object merely inhibited the necessary flight of fancy.  And so he turned to abstraction, with the flavor of Japan still in it.  When he and his wife, Kimi, were not in their Greenwich Village apartment, they were apt to be in an old frame house near Albany, New York. He worked on as many as five canvases at a time, wandering from one to another in bare feet. He had no advanced knowledge of how his canvas should come out, and thus his composition could grow naturally.

Okada's work has been credited with forming a bridge between the abstract qualities found in Eastern and Western art.  He became a United States citizen in 1960.  He died on July 25, 1982 in Tokyo.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Time Magazine, January 25, 1963.
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