Tadaaki Kuwayama, known for his experiments in monochrome painting, 1932–2023

Tadaaki Kuwayama, TK847-3/4-18, 2018 aluminium strip and acrylic on canvas, 121 × 121cm. Courtesy Whitestone Gallery

Tadaaki Kuwayama, known for his monochrome painting, has died. Kuwayama was born in Nagoya, Japan, and studied Japanese nihonga painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music until 1956, but became fascinated from afar by the burgeoning abstract painting scene emerging in America and Europe at the time. The passion led to his emigration, alongside his wife, fellow artist Rakuko Naito, to New York two years after graduating.

There he developed a series of monochrome works, initially in bright primary colours, each canvas subdivided by vertical and horizontal metal strips.

Meeting the likes of Donald Judd and Frank Stella, into the 1970s his process became more industrial in intent, Kuwayama taking up acrylic and spray paint to produce metallic colours with a high-sheen finish, often presenting his work freestanding.

In 1966 he was included in two influential exhibitions, Systemic Painting at the Guggenheim Museum and Vormen van de Kleur (Forms of Colour) at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, but it was Germany who embraced his later work the most, especially as his palette became more austere and he experimented in the use of serial discrete canvases in a single work. He had solo exhibitions at Folkwang Museum Essen (1974), the Museum für Konkrete Kunst Ingolstadt (1997) and the Galerie Renate Bender Munich (1997 and 2002). In June the The Mayor Gallery in London held a joint exhibition of Kuwayama and Naito. 

Kuwayama’s work can be found in public collections such as the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Folkwang Museum, Essen; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

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