Friday, April 18, 2008

Kikuo Saito

If you love Cy Twombly; if you love Larry Poons' later works, you'll love Kikuo Saito. Although there are elements in his paintings that remind you of these greats, Kikuo is definitely his own man.
Born in Tokyo in 1939, he moved to NYCity when he was 27 (1966); studied with Larry Poons and was an assistant to Poons and Kenneth Noland. What a beginning !

There are two distinctive things about Kikuo's work that attract me. In some of his paintings you have a grid - sometimes apparent, sometimes not - with random Roman Letters scattered here and there. For some reason the placement of those letters seem important enough to make me search for words or an answer. They add a very sophisticated and serious look to the paintings. Some of these can be very serious, as in the work titled Copper Wall, or especially the very dark and yet ethereal, Via Luca.
The other characteristic that attracts me is his puttering style of painting. It looks like he's just puttering around applying color here and there as the whim hits him. The bottom painting, "Avocado Road" 1999, Oil on Canvas 39 1/2 x 89 1/2 inches, is a prime example. You have a background that's as solid as it is vacuous, and he just seems to hang passages of painting here and there; just tinkering around and probably even muttering to himself all the while.

The top image is "Orange Dust", 2004. Both images are from Gallery Camino Real, where they have 14 examples of his work that enlarge, twice.

An excellent read is an essay by Karen Wilkin, accompanied by images. (caution - PDF)

You'll also want to check out the 4 images at the Robert Kidd Gallery.

And you absolutely must check out the work on paper they have at Artnet.

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