Katsumi Nakai

HIRAKU 80-72

acrylic on plywood
18 1/2 x 17 3/4 inches (closed); 31 1/8 x 21 3/4 inches (open)

Born in Osaka in 1927, Katsumi Nakai’s career charted a truly unique path. After studying painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Osaka, he began exhibiting his work regularly in the area, and in 1958 he was among the seven founding artists of the avant-garde group of abstract and informal art Tekkeikai, which was active from Kyoto to Osaka until the mid-1960s. In 1964, he temporarily relocated to Milan where artist Lucio Fontana and gallerist Renato Cardazzo played a crucial role in his artistic development. In particular, Fontana’s ideas of Spatialism influenced his use of brightly-colored, hinged wooden panels (seen here in a work from 2007) that allow his paintings to open and close, changing over time and extending out into its surrounding space. This work generates four different color compositions –

both panels closed, both open, or left/right open – existing in a constant state of potential change. Nakai exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Italy, Europe, Japan and the United States throughout his career, and achieved awards such as the Prix Piazzetta, the Ambitions Moderate Award, and the Silver Award in the XV Milan Triennale in 1973. In 2004, the Italian Kyoto Institute of Culture organized the seminal exhibition Katsumi Nakai – Open.