Genichiro Inokuma, Japanese (1902 - 1993)

Inokuma, 1902 – 1993, along with artists such as Kenzo Okada, Yayoi Kusama, Minoru Kawabata, and Atsuko Tanaka -- currently exhibiting at the Grey Art Gallery -- who showed extensively in the United States and Europe, synthesized the flat, decorative, and suggestive style of traditional Japanese painting with Western abstraction in ways which were recognized at the time as international, innovative, and influential. The earliest works exhibited, gouaches from 1956 and 1957, combine calligraphic elements on broad fields of color in ways which clearly relate to the work of Mark Tobey, who also showed at the Willard Gallery, and to Helen Frankenthaler. Both were influenced by Japanese art as demonstrated by their interest in abstraction, reduction and improvisation. Other figures influenced by Japanese art and Japanese artists in New York in the 1950s include Franz Kline, Sam Francis, John Cage and Merce Cunningham.

In the 1960s Inokuma began to paint works based on imagined aerial views of cities, reducing three dimensional topography to two dimensional patterns which at once suggest the energy and visual complexity of the urban fabric yet remain completely abstract. Many of the forms used to represent roads, buildings, and train tracks seem to derive from visual symbols used in contemporary printed Japanese maps, an early example of the interplay between painting and popular visual language and print media which is so important in contemporary Japanese work.

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