Sakata Kazuo: Recoup Lost Ground

Saturday, December 7, 2019 – Sunday, January 26, 2020

Mondays (except January 13 and 20), December 29 to January 1, and Tuesday January 14
[Opening Hours]
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
*Fridays: Until 8:00 p.m.
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing time
[Admission Fee]
Adults (at the door): 1,000yen, high school and university students (at the door): 800 yen
Adults (advance ticket): 800 yen, high school and university students (advance ticket): 600 yen
* Junior high school students and younger: Free
* For groups of 20 or more, admission fees are 800 yen for adults and 600 yen for high school and university students, but this discount is only available between December 8 and January 17.
* Persons with a disability certificate or similar receive a 100 yen discount on tickets purchased at the door, and one accompanying helper is admitted free.
Tickets can be purchased from:
Tokyo Station Gallery (up until 30 minutes before the gallery closes),
Lawson Ticket (L-code=31473), E Plus, CN Playguide and
Seven Ticket.
* Advance tickets are on sale from October 5 to December 6, 2019.
* Advance tickets are on sale at the Tokyo Station Gallery reception desk until November 24, on days when the gallery is open.
[Organized by]
Tokyo Station Gallery (East Japan Railway Culture Foundation)
[With the special cooperation of]
Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art

Flyer PDF

All the Stored Worlds, All the Stored Landscapes

In 1920s Japan, Kishida Riusei's achievements as a painter were at their peak, and MAVO and other Taisho Era avant-garde groups were in furious competition. Meanwhile, in Paris, a Japanese painter was reveling in the latest artistic trends. The artist Okazaki Kenjiro, who is also a giant in modern art history research, offers an interpretation of Sakata Kazuo, an outstanding avant-garde artist greatly admired by those who know.

Releasing the Latent Energy of the Paintings
Rewinding the Painting and the World = Resurrection

Sakata Kazuo (1889-1956) is an artist who understood the crux of the developments in abstract painting from Cubism onwards and pushed their possibilities to the very limit. This exhibition presents a comprehensive exploration of Sakata Kazuo's work, which attained a level that has rarely been reached anywhere in the world, and it uncovers the possibilities of the worlds woven into his paintings.
Sakata Kazuo went to France in 1921, after World War I. There he encountered contemporary abstract paintings, and he was active as a radical avant-garde artist in that country for more than a decade. After returning to Japan in 1933, he worked zealously on his art in his Okayama birthplace, as well as forming the Avant-Garde Okayama group and doing his best to nurture the next generation of artists.
However, there were almost no attempts to extensively introduce Sakata's work outside of Okayama during his lifetime or after his death, and it is no exaggeration to say that he has been largely forgotten. The artist Okazaki Kenjiro minutely analyzes the history of modern art and is attempting to rediscover and galvanize its potential, and he is paying attention to Sakata. We invited him to curate the exhibition, which is the first to present a comprehensive exploration of Sakata Kazuo, as a 'contemporary artist'. He compares the evolution of Sakata's work, particularly between his return to Japan and the end of World War II, with the work of other artists in Japan and overseas, and the sections that he deciphers as issues in 20th century pictorial representation will no doubt serve as a chance to release the latent energy of the paintings. Rewinding the painting and its world = resurrection is still possible.

Analyze Sakata Kazuo!
Acrobatic Ensembles

In Abstract Art as Impact (2018), a stimulating recent publication that systematically explains the specific impact of abstract art, Sakata Kazuo is one of the artists on whom Okazaki Kenjiro returns the focus. Okazaki comments that Sakata is a painter who put into practice the elaborate operation of giving volume to the area usually considered as 'background' and then of giving it multiplicity and at the same time folding it into layers. He says that, in that respect, Sakata and his European contemporaries shared the same issues.
In order to analyze Sakata's complex spatial operations, this exhibition combines and contrasts Sakata's works with those of his contemporary painters and some rather unexpected artists. Sakata is said to have declared that it would take another 50 years for people to understand his paintings. It is now more than 60 years since his death, and Okazaki attempts to unravel their mysteries with a keen analytical eye.
Over 200 items are scheduled to be displayed. You can look forward to a stunning exhibition that completely fills the gallery.

◇ Other artists on display

Fernand Léger, Sakamoto Hanjiro, Le Corbusier, Giorgio Morandi, Nicolas de Staël, Yamashita Kikuji, Richard Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Wakabayashi Isamu

Restored from the Floods

Sakata Kazuo's atelier was on reclaimed land not far above sea level and was flooded twice, in 1944 and 1954, leading to the damage or loss of many works.
The two paintings titled Still Life, which were created in the same year, are identical in size, and bear a very close resemblance in their motif, form a narrative of the scars of flood damage. However, it is true to say that the peeled away surfaces are not only heartrending but also convey a sense of menace. Sakata restored the flood-damaged works himself, and he apparently also made revisions to them. The question is, why did he choose to leave these twin-like works to posterity?
Sakata also created pictures with lines reminiscent of slits painted into them, as if to imitate the scars left by peeled-off paint. Perhaps he wanted conversely to exploit the flood damage in his creative work.
The words "recoup lost ground" in the title of this exhibition refer not only to the rescue from historical obscurity of the painter Sakata Kazuo, but also the amazing way in which his works transform the damage that they suffered into resurrection.

Sakata Kazuo (1889-1956)
Born in Okayama as the eldest son of a doctor, Sakata Kaitaro. He initially intended to become a doctor, but decided on his future path when he learned to paint while recovering from a nervous breakdown after graduating from junior high school. He went to France in 1921. Sakata studied under Fernand Léger at the Académie Moderne and later became his assistant. He became a member of several salons during his stay in France, and played an active role on the artistic front, which included participating in international exhibitions and holding large-scale solo show at a gallery.
After returning to Japan in 1933, Sakata engaged in creative work at his atelier in Tamashima, Kurashiki for the rest of his life. In 1949, he presided over the avant-garde art group Avant-Garde Okayama (A.G.O.). He has been highly praised posthumously as a pioneering Japanese abstract artist, and retrospective exhibitions have been held at the following museums: Bridgestone Museum of Art (1957), Otani Memorial Art Museum, Nishinomiya City (1976), Kurashiki City Art Museum (1988), and Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art (2007).