On the Occasion of The Retrospective Exhibition of Saito Yoshishige

| Term: 14 February 2004 - 28 March 2004
| Museum hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
**(No one will be admitted after 7:30 p.m.)
| Closed*: Tuesday
| Entrance fees: Adult: 900 yen (700 yen)*
High school/university students: 450 yen (350 yen)*
Junior high/elementary school students: 250 yen (200 yen)*

*Parentheses indicate reduced price for groups of 20 or more.

This exhibition presents the art of Saito Yoshishige, who passed away in June 2001 at the age of 97. Including examples from his earliest period to his very last work, it broadly introduces the entire scope of his art and, at the same time, attempts to follow how he continuously challenged the Japanese art world with avant-garde yet fundamental questions.

In the period immediately after World War II Japanese contemporary artists who had already been active before the war were continuing to exhibit works of distinctive character and bringing them to greater maturity. On the other hand, those artists disposed to directing their artistic gaze inward created works in which they presented their own inner worlds in diverse, experimental ways. Both types of artists possessed fresh, new sensibilities and committed themselves to deep, rigorous thinking, turning these into definite formal ideas that governed their works.

It was around this time that SaitoYoshishige drew sudden notice in art circles when he won the Mr. K's Prize (The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Award) with Demon (cat.no.57-2),which he exhibited at The 4th International A rt Exhibition, Japan (1957). As a result of this award, moreover, he was chosen to exhibit at such venues as the Bienal de Sao Paulo of 1959, as well as the Biennale Internazionale d'Arte Venezia and the Guggenheim International Award exhibition of 1960. In that sense, Demon is a work that has monumental meaning for Saito.

Sakai Tadayasu once described Demon as having something like the crystallization of the artist's thoughts existing solidly behind it. Indeed we can feel in this work Saito's “demonically" intense artistic will lying concealed behind an indefinable humor.

Saito discovered Russian avant-garde art and Dadaism early in his career. This experience caused him to begin feelings doubts about established values of art and to become increasingly disaffected with painting. His resulting rejection of the fundamental character of painting, that is, of the expression of space as an illusion, and his adoption of an anti-painting attitude probably derived from such Dadaistic tendencies. Indeed, Saito's subsequent creative activities can all be described as having arisen from this anti-painting attitude.

For example, soon after Demon, he embarked on his 1960s style of carving scratch-like marks on the surface of plywood panels using a drill. No doubt this was his way of avoiding “depicting" in a painterly sense. From there, his work developed into his Four Positions and Dissymmetry series of the 1970s, which are wood relieves composed of even simpler, monochrome shapes. Finally, his works took the form of connected pieces of black painted timber in his Complex series of the 1980s.

Saito's shapes evolved from the planar to relieves, and from there they lib Crated themselves from the frame and wall, to rise up from the floor as three-dimensional works. His colors, too, gradually became more monochromatic, until finally, his works came to be painted in a single, inorganic black. As I mentioned above, he eliminated illusion from artistic expression and presented the actual "object" itself as a work occupying a definite space.

In the summer of 1999, Saito said: "For me, there is the process of creation. and the work exists as the result of that process. What is important is not the 'thing' but the 'occurrence.' I am not trying to make the work that is the result; I am satisfied if I succeed in communicating the process."

These words bring to mind the nineteenth-century German philosopher G.Simmel. In an essay, Simmel asserted that the significance of philosophical thought lies not in the drawing of some kind of conclusion regarding content and, from there, the development of a system or dogma, but in the process or act of thinking itself. I believe that this offers a very meaningful suggestion for increasing our understanding of the art of Saito Yoshishige, who spent a lifetime questioning the very foundations of the history of modern Japanese art.

Soejima Mikio
Chairman. Executive Committee for The Retrospective Exhibition of Saito Yoshishige
Director,Shimane Art Museum


Guest Talk / Kishio Suga (Artist)

Feb. 14 (Sat.) 13:00 -

Talks about Yoshishige Saito
Place:Home Gallery / Price: Free

Gallery Tours

Every Saturday, Sunday, and holidays at 3 pm.

Gallery tours are given every Saturday, Sunday,
and holidays at 3 pm.


** Home Gallery Concert
Every night at 19:00-

Every night at 19:00 p.m. there are concerts in the home gallery.

Friday Jam Concert
Friday evenings at 18:30-

Live concerts taking place every Friday at 18:30.
Place:Art Loft / Free


Monday Night Movies
Every monday,

Weekly screenings of various cinematic masterpieces starting at 3 pm and 6pm.

Place:Art Loft / Free

Feb.16: Grumpy Old Men (103 min, 1993, U.S.A.)
Feb.23: Love Affair (108 min, 1944, U.S.A.)
March 1: A Streetcar Named Desire(122min, 1951, U.S.A.)
March 8: East of Eden(115min, 1954, U.S.A.)
March 15: Conte de Printemps(107min, 1989, France)*
March 22: The Apple.(86min, 1998, Iran, France, Holland)*

Both days will be presented by the Kamitori Fan Club


  * In certain unavoidable cases, there may be changes in the scheduled displays/events.
Please direct all inquiries to the museum's curatorial section at 096-278-7503

Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto
2-3 Kamitori-cho, Chuou-ku, Kumamoto city, 860-0845 Japan
TEL/+81-96-278-7500 FAX/+81-96-359-7892 E-mail/gamadas@camk.or.jp

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