Sadamasa Motonaga

Born in 1922 in Mie Prefecture, Motonaga was a member of the legendary Gutai Art Association (1954–72), which became famous for groundbreaking performance works and innovations in painting, sculpture, and installation art. He emerged at a time when a post-atomic surrealist existentialism was at the forefront of artistic development in Japan. However, Motonaga chose a different path and turned his back on the destruction wrought by the war in order to create paintings, sculptures, and performances that were fresh, jubilant, and playful.

In 1954, he began employing a vocabulary of embryonic shapes, flying objects, and cartoon-like forms, modeled in heavy oil paint, that revealed his interest in children’s art, manga, and popular culture, and collapsed distinctions between high and low art. By 1957, Motonaga’s work had become more abstract and featured flowing lines and pools of brightly colored pigment poured and dripped onto the canvas. This “classic style,” which developed concurrently with Morris Louis’s Veil paintings, occupied Motonaga until the mid-1960s, when his anthropomorphic sensibility returned in paintings featuring extruded and knotted forms that were delicately modeled with airbrush.

Thereafter in the 1970s, the artist’s scratchy hand-drawn forms reappeared along with the use of canned spray paint, creating a style that was fresh and raw, akin to graffiti and animation. Motonaga occupied a unique position in the Japanese art world, creating a distinct visual continuity between the artists and imagery of the immediate postwar era and the concerns that emerged in the work of contemporary painters such as Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, and beyond.

Motonaga’s work has been the subject of many retrospective exhibitions, most notably at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe, 1998; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, 2003; Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum , 2005; and Mie Prefectural Museum of Art, 2009. The first Western retrospective of Motonaga’s art will take place at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2014.

Selected Artworks

October 13, 2017

FIAC 2017: Top galleries in “Avenue Winston Churchill, On Site”


FIAC 2017, the International Art Fair exhibiting the best Contemporary Art galleries of the world, awaits its grand opening on October 19 in Paris. This year FIAC will have two sub-sections, Avenue Winston Churchill and Petit Palais, showcasing outdoor works featuring seminal works by the most prominent galleries all over the world. These two sub-sections fall in FIAC’s new sub division of “On Site” that was introduced last year. Read More
September 5, 2017

Marcia Hafif: Upcoming Museum Shows in Switzerland

Opening at Kunsthaus Baselland: Thursday 14th September, 6:30 PM

The MARCIA HAFIF exhibition is created in collaboration with the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (MARCIA HAFIF: September 16-January 14, 2018) and the Kunsthaus Baselland in Muttenz (MARCIA HAFIF: September 15–November 12, 2017).
Hafif (b.1929, USA, living in New York and Laguna Beach) is among the pioneers of the 1970s who fundamentally broadened con­ceptions of the practice of painting and under­standing of art per se. Since the 1980s, terms like ‘radical’ have been used to describe Hafif’s work with monochrome painting. The pencil on paper drawings, vertical pencil marks cover­ ing a surface, begun in 1972, led to the ver­tical stroke in paint. Her work in both mediums still continues, fitting within what she calls The Inventory. Each series included in The Inventory develops a single medium using tra­ditional methods and materials for making paint and preparing a ground. Individual works in a series can be larger or smaller, and usually are made with vertical brush­strokes, with which the effects of unmixed colours on a suit­able painting ground are sounded out. Works from the series that may be her most radical will be exhibited at the Kunsthaus Baselland: the Black Paintings (1979/80) in which she found black by layering ultramarine blue and burnt umber. There will also be photographs and films on display.
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