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Indianapolis Museum of Art presents "Universe Is Flux: The Art of Tawara Yūsaku"
Tawara Yūsaku, Japanese, (1932-2004), Kyo (Emptiness), 9.29-1, from Boh Boh (Vastness) series, 1993, ink on paper, 10 5/8 x 9 in. (image). Martha Delzell Memorial Fund. 2011.142

INDIANAPOLIS, IN.- The Indianapolis Museum of Art presents the first largescale exhibition of works by Tawara Yūsaku, a contemporary Japanese artist known for his highly energetic brushstroke. Universe Is Flux: The Art of Tawara Yūsaku, on view from November 11, 2011, to April 1, 2012, featuring works inspired by Tawara’s belief that the universe is unstable and constantly changing. Executed primarily in ink on paper, his works use the cumulative effect of many brushstrokes to create powerful and expressive works, apparent in even his smallest 3 in. x 5 in. paintings. Although Tawara eschewed representational art, many of his paintings recall traditional ink landscapes or other forms in nature.

“With this exhibition, the IMA will introduce the inventive and insightful vision of Tawara Yūsaku to an American audience,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the IMA. “Tawara’s great strength is an ability to create works that simultaneously exist in the realms of contemporary art and traditional Asian art, and are also strongly influenced by Buddhist concepts.”

“Tawara’s distinctive vision of reality was transformed into immensely complex paintings filled with monumental energy,” said John Teramoto, curator of Asian art at the IMA. “Essentially he took motifs oft-employed in calligraphy and painted them—creating exciting effects that could never be executed with only a single brush stroke.”

Tawara saw all existence as composed of vibrational energy, made up of wavelike forms he called “hadō.” Fundamentally based on Buddhist thought, Tawara translated his vision of reality into paintings with intense visual impact. Highlights of the exhibition include several renditions of the Japanese character “ichi,” which means “one.” Traditionally executed in a single stroke in calligraphy, Tawara painted these ichi with his method of layering innumerable brushstrokes.

Featuring 77 works, mostly in ink on paper, Universe Is Flux introduces audiences in the United States to this artist’s unique philosophy and its impact on his paintings. The exhibition features works created in the 1990s, following Tawara’s several decade hiatus from painting, as well as pieces created just before his death in 2004. Organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Universe Is Flux: The Art of Tawara Yūsaku is on view in the Thompson Gallery, Hurwitz Gallery and Appel Gallery.

To accompany the exhibition, the IMA produced an illustrated catalogue co-published by University of Washington Press featuring a number of original scholarly essays, including a contribution by John Teramoto, IMA curator of Asian Art and exhibition curator. The catalogue, Universe Is Flux: The Art of Tawara Yūsaku, also features essays by Stephen Addiss, TuckerBoatwright Professor of Humanities at the University of Richmond, and David Rosand, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History Emeritus at Columbia University. The paperbound catalogue includes 81 color plates and color illustrations.

Tawara Yūsaku
Tawara Yūsaku (1932-2004) was born in present-day Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture. His original name was Okada Toshihiko. He began studying oil painting as a high school student under the tutelage of Kobayashi Wasaku (1888–1974), who gave him the artist name, “Tawara Yūsaku” (the character for “saku” being part of his teacher’s name). In 1951 he entered the Law Faculty of Chūō University in Tokyo. While still a university student he won awards for his paintings, which led to his decision to halt his university studies and turn to painting professionally. He formed a painters’ group with Kizawa Teiichi and Hyd Kazuo.

In 1963, he abruptly decided to put down his brush and quit painting, saying that he came to doubt the validity of his work. Later he often mentioned the opinion of the French artist Balthus, whom he met in 1965, that the oil paintings of Asian artists were lacking in power and that they were indeed more suited to working in ink. In the intervening period before returning to painting, he poured his efforts into polishing his artistic sensibilities through collecting and dealing in ancient and modern art from around the world, and focusing on folk arts and crafts by mounting and writing exhibition catalogues on folk art. His activities brought him into close contact with towering figures in the field such as Hamada Shōji (1894–1978). Through his close friendship Serizawa Keisuke (1895–1984), the textile design artist and Living National Treasure in Japan, he became absorbed in the expressive potential of brush and paper, and he began to paint again in 1993.

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