TAKEO YAMAGUCHI (1902-1983) 
TAKEO YAMAGUCHI (1902-1983) 
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TAKEO YAMAGUCHI (1902-1983) 

Fu (Floating) 

TAKEO YAMAGUCHI (1902-1983) 
Fu (Floating) 
signed, dated and titled in Japanese (on a label on the reverse) 
oil on board 
162 x 130 cm. (52 1/8 x 45 5/8 in.) 
Painted in 1963  
Private collection
Anon. sale, Mallet Auction, Day Sale, Japan, 5 September 2008
Acquired from the above by the present owner

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by
Takeo Yamaguchi Artwork Registration Association.
Fundacao Bienal de S. Paulo, VII Bienal de Sao Paolo, exh. cat., Fundacao Bienal de S. Paulo, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 1963 (listed, p. 307).
7/Bienal de Sao Paulo Japao, Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai Sociedade para as Relacoes Culturais Internacionais, 1963 (listed, no. 53).
Musashino Art University Museum and Library (MAU M&L) (ed.), Works by Professor Takeo Yamaguchi, Musashino Art University
Museum and Library (MAU M&L), Tokyo, Japan, 1968 (listed, no. 13).
Kitakyushu City Museum of Art (ed.), Exhibition of Takeo Yamaguchi, exh. cat., Kitakyushu City Museum of Art, 1980 (listed, p. 113).
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Miki Tamon, Asano Toru, Motoe Kunio (ed.), The National Museum of Modern Art, The Asahi Shimbun (ed.), Yamaguchi Takeo & Horiuti Masakazu, exh. cat., Tokyo, Japan, 1980 (listed, p. 139).
Takeo Yamaguchi, Takeo Yamaguchi Sakuhinshu, Kodansha, Tokyo, Japan, 1981 (illustrated in black and white, plate 216).
Takeo Yamaguchi, exh. cat., Nerima Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 1987 (illustrated, no. 60, p. 75).
Kagoshima City Museum of Art, Takeo Yamanishi, Otani Memorial Art Museum, Nishinomiya City, Yasuyuki Nakai, Shimonoseki City Art
Museum, Satoshi Hamamoto, Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art & Design, Yutaka Asaji (ed.), Exhibition of Takeo Yamaguchi, exh. cat., The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Japan Association of Art Museums, Tokyo, Japan, 1993 (listed, p. 166).
Tokyo, Japan, The Bridgestone Museum of Art, Preview Exhibition of the 7th Sao Paulo Biennial Exhibits from Japan, 15-17 March 1963.
Sao Paolo, Brazil, Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion, Parque do Ibirapuera, The 7th Sao Paulo Biennial, 28 September – 22 December 1963.
Tokyo, Japan, Musashino Art University Museum and Library (MAU M&L), Works by Professor Takeo Yamaguchi, 1 July – 3 August 1968.
Tokyo, Japan, Nerima Art Museum, Takeo Yamaguchi, 23 September – 3 November 1987.

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

Lot Essay

Christie’s is proud to present this momentous work by the pioneering artist Takeo Yamaguchi, who was at the vanguard of the postwar abstract art boom in Southeast Asia. As early as in 1958 and 1961, Yamaguchi had already been invited to exhibit at New York’s Guggenheim Museum and MoMA, putting him in the pantheon of the post-war art world. In 1963, Yamaguchi finished this work and immediately exhibited it at the Sao Paulo Art Biennial, while also leading groups of Japanese artists to visit and learn from the exhibition, giving us a glimpse of his passion and enthusiasm for art. Works of a similar vintage, style, and colour tone that were also exhibited at the show have already entered permanent collections of Japan’s top art museums. He also picked out Fu for his “Professor Takeo Yamaguchi Exhibition” in 1968 at the Musashino Art University, where he had a tenured professorship, so it is clear that this work had special significance for the artist himself.

Yamaguchi was born in Seoul in 1902, and studied western painting at the Tokyo Art School from 1922 to 1927, before moving to Paris in 1927 to continue his education. He moved back to Seoul in the 1930s and was invited every year to exhibit by the Nika Association, one of Japan’s most important avant-garde art groups during the pre-war period. A few years later, he formed the Kyu-shitsu Kai (Ninth Room Association) to promote the growth of avant-garde abstract art in Southeast Asia with other cutting-edge artists such as Jiro Yoshihara, the founder of the Gutai school, and Yoshishige Saito, who taught the founder of the Mono-ha school. Yamaguchi had already earned worldwide renown by the 1950s, making a name for himself among other abstract art masters in the west during the post-war period; his works were always well-recognised, including by the Sao Paolo Art Biennale (twice in 1955 and 1963), La Biennale di Venezia (1956), the Guggenheim Museum (1958), and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (1964). Over the two decades between 1954 and 1974, he taught as a beloved professor at Tokyo’s Musashino Art University, and mentored countless students who went on to become stars in Asian art. Kim Whanki, for instance, never forgot Yamaguchi’s generosity when he gave Kim paintbrushes, paint, and canvas to support his painting; and Lee Ufan also spoke openly of how the development of his artistic philosophy was greatly influenced by Yamaguchi.

Towards the late 1950s and ‘60s, Yamaguchi’s style reached its zenith. Against the pure black background, a unique geometric shape in crimson or ochre seems to float weightlessly. This is not a conventional geometric shape, with contours that give it strong dimensionality and an eccentric perspective making the shape lively and energetic; there is none of the usual strict and regimented experience with graphical form that was par for the course, instead the unassuming shape and colour combine to create an organic dynamism. The use of crimson in Fu calls to mind the red earth of the Korean peninsula, which is fu rther accented and given palpable texture against the simple single shade of black background. At first glance one may be tempted to group Yamaguchi’s work with America’s colour-field paintings or minimalist movement, but the thickness with which Yamaguchi layers on the paint creates a sculptural sense of tangible depth beyond the two dimensions of the painting. Closer inspection would surprise viewers with the oil paint’s substantial texture and volume, because would use a painting knife to repeatedly spread, stack, and sculpt the paint over at least seven or eight layers. Fu combines the simplicity of minimalism with the texture of informalism, with an injection of the artist’s own experiences and philosophy, creating a new artistic language that is unique to Yamaguchi himself.

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