Shadow by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Shadow, 1989/1997, acrylic on canvas, 290.8 cm × 218.1 cm © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Jiro Takamatsu

Portrait of Jiro Takamatsu

Portrait of Jiro Takamatsu

Details:

b. 1936, Tokyo
d. 1998, Tokyo

Engaging with histories of Dadaism and Surrealism through a minimalist visual language, Jiro Takamatsu’s art centers on metaphysical ideas and concepts related to time, space, and emptiness.

Over the span of his four-decade career, the artist engaged with a wide range of mediums, including sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, and performance art through which he explored concepts related to perception, space, and objecthood. Takamatsu nurtured an interest in mathematics and physics, especially quantum mechanics, as evidenced in his early “point” and “string” works, which meditate on the relationships between elementary particles, probing the ways in which they are at once material and immaterial, tangible and imaginary, present and absent.

Takamatsu studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he cultivated an interdisciplinary artistic practice after graduating in 1958. In the following years, he established the collective Hi Red Center (1963–64) alongside fellow artists Genpei Akasegawa and Natsuyuki Nakanishi. Presenting politically minded actions in public spaces throughout postwar Tokyo, Hi Red Center sought to dissolve boundaries between art and life—producing what the collective called a “descent into the everyday”—through experimental and unorthodox approaches to art making. In 1966, the group reproduced a thousand-yen note as part of the work Model 1000-Yen Note (1963), for which they were famously tried and found guilty of counterfeiting, marking one of the most significant episodes in the history of 20th century Conceptualism. Takamatsu was also a leading figure in the Mono-Ha (School of Things) movement, which reacted against what it saw as unchecked industrialization and technologization in Japan through non-representational art centering on materiality and material conditions.

Takamatsu’s works and series were often directly informed and related to one another. The expansive and generative nature of his process is perhaps most apparent between 1977 and 1982, an especially prolific period during which he developed the interrelated bodies of work that he called Space in Two Dimensions, Space, and Poles and Space. His most well-known and enduring series, which he began in 1964 and continued to create for the rest of his life, is his Shadow Paintings, which probe the formal properties of painting and conditions of representation. Inspired by the portrayal of shadows in 19th century Japanese paintings and woodcuts as well as his everyday encounters, Takamatsu investigated how painting could serve as a tool for critical inquiry, questioning the role of perceptual and visual phenomena in constructing notions of reality. Takamatsu drew attention to absence through the depiction of silhouetted, illusionistic shadows of figures and household items, sometimes cast from multiple implied light sources.

Though he presented his first solo exhibition at Gallery Hiroshi in 1959, Takamatsu considered his 1962 Yomiuri Independent exhibition the true start of his career as an artist. In 1966, he had his first solo exhibition at the Tokyo Gallery—where he would continue to show work in the 1970s and 80s. He went on to represent Japan at the 34th Venice Biennale in 1968 alongside Tomio Miki, Kumi Sugai, and Katsuhiro Yamaguchi. Teaching at Tokyo’s Tama Art University from 1968 to 1972, Takamatsu introduced pioneering ways of seeing and thinking about art to the next generation of artists in Japan.

An influential figure of the Japanese avant-garde, presented with numerous solo exhibitions during his lifetime, Takamatsu is once again the subject of international attention, his practice lauded by scholars and curators across institutions globally. In 2014, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo opened Jiro Takamatsu: Mysteries, which traced three distinct phases of his career; and, in 2015, the National Museum of Art in Osaka mounted the major retrospective Jiro Takamatsu: Trajectory of Work. Takamatsu has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Henry Moore Institute, Wakefield, England (2017) and the Royal Society of Sculptors, London (2019). The artist’s work is held in important public collections worldwide, including Aomori Museum of Art, Japan; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate, London, among others.

Point No.14 by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Point No.14, 1961, lacquer on board, 27.3 × 22.1 cm © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Strings in Bottles by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Strings in Bottles, 1963-85, string and bottle, dimension variable. Photo by Tadasu Yamamoto © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Cube by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Cube, 1968, wood, lacquer, 16.2 x 16.2 x 16.8 cm. Photo by Masaru Yanagiba © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Japanese Letters by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Japanese Letters, 1970, offset lithograph on paper, 72.8 x 51.0 cm © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

English Words by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, English Words, 1970, offset lithograph on paper, 78.5 x 54.4 cm © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Oneness of Marble by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Oneness of Marble, 1971, 60 x 50 x 18 cm. Collection of National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Tadasu Yamamoto © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Shadows on Construction Site Walls by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Shadows on Construction Site Walls, 1971. Photo by Yasuo Sadayama © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Smashing of Everything by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Smashing of Everything, 1972, mixed media and wooden boxes, 15.0 × 55.0 × 35.0 cm. Photo by Tadasu Yamamoto © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Photograph of Photograph by Jiro Takamatsu

Jiro Takamatsu, Photograph of photograph, 1973-1974, gelatin silver print, 116.0 x 95.8 cm © The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London