Catalog with essay by Joshua Cohen
A selection of new paintings and works on paper by Kikuo Saito will be on display at Leslie Feely through May 3, 2014. This marks the artists' first solo exhibition in five years in New York City.
Kikuo Saito was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1939 and moved to New York City in 1966. A former studio assistant to prominent artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland and Larry Poons, Saito began exhibiting his own paintings in the early 1970's.
At the same time, Saito was also known for his poetic theater pieces which incorporated silent drama, costumes, light, music and dance. He has collaborated with such theater luminaries as Jerome Robbins, Peter Brook and Robert Wilson.
Saito's approach to painting is rhythmic and lyrical. Saito paints on the floor, moving around the canvas or paper as he works, much like the dancers he directed in his stage productions. The choreography of his productions have significantly influenced the composition of his paintings. Karen Wilkin explains, "The most apparently self-referential cluster of strokes in his recent calligraphic gesture paintings often have their origins in shorthand references to the characters in Saito's haunting performances, transformed and made independent by their new context."
This exhibition will include a group of works on canvas calligraphic and painterly in gesture. Fragmented stenciled Roman letters occasionally appear in the background reflecting Saito's early experience as a young man in New York City with an unfamiliar language. These letters never become messages or decipherable text, however, they remain enigmatic suggesting the elusiveness of language.
A new group of intimate works on paper present shifts in scale, density and media. A number of these works are made on magazine pages of printed text. Here Saito's deliberate, bold, black calligraphic strokes nullify the magazine text. A byproduct of the application of oil is a stained halo effect, framing the artist's new language and forcing it to the foreground.
Kikuo Saito was an artist-in-residence at Duke University in 1996 and a past visiting professor at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Andre Emmerich Gallery; Duke University Museum of Art; Portland Art Museum; and in such Public Collections as Bain & CO., Boston; J.P. Morgan Chase Collection, NY; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; and Queens University, Canada. He currently teaches at his alma mater - the Art Students League of NY and works from his studio in New York City.