Kenzo Okada was already an accomplished painter when he emigrated to New York in 1950. First trained in Tokyo, he was versed in traditional Japanese styles as well as in techniques of Western painting. In the mid-twenties, he continued his training in Paris under Tsuguji Fujita, a Japanese painter who merged Eastern and Western approaches. After returning to Japan, where he taught in its finest art schools and received the county’s highest accolades, he entered New York at the height of its vibrant Abstract Expressionist scene. He was welcomed among his American counterparts, befriending Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline. He began exhibiting at Betty Parsons Gallery in 1953, the very same gallery that launched many of the careers of Abstract Expressionists painters. Beige was included in the artist’s 1973 solo exhibition at the gallery. The artist firmly secured his place in the American painter when he was exhibited as an American in the 1955 Sao Paolo Biennial.
Okada’s paintings after his arrival in New York exemplifies an art that rests secularly in the Eastern tradition as well as in the avant-garde spirit of the New York school. Beige, ostensibly named for the predominance of the color in the painting, depict all-over compositions with floating forms that suggest landscapes or other natural elements. Okada found a balance between two divergent styles to create a new dialogue exhibiting the clarity of form, serene color scheme and philosophical relation to nature so important to the traditional arts of Japan by combining these elements with the expressiveness of modern Western abstraction.
His work was also included in the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1955.