Nobu Fukui : Paradise

Page 1


NOBU FUKUI Essay by Joanne Mattera

MARGARET THATCHER PROJECTS 5 3 9 W 2 3 r d S t r e e t , N e w Yo r k , N Y 10 01 1

Mythic, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 96 x 90 inches (244 x 229 cm)

AN ABIdINg AEsthEtIc Nobu Fukui’s paintings are an elegant mix of geometry and gesture, painting and collage, abstraction and representation, surface and structure. In their impressive sweep of scale and composition, they suggest from a distance a hubble-like view of the heavens. Allow yourself to fall visually into their shimmering expanse. Move closer and the pictorial elements in each painting assume primacy. circular cutouts of comics—American superheroes and Japanese manga—pop icons, and more recently, images from art history are set within open discs of different hues. Bits of newspaper peek out from behind the cutouts along with hints of color fields and broad brush strokes. Your tendency might be to expect a narrative in the composition, but Fukui is insistent that there is none. “No message. totally visual,” he says succinctly. Nevertheless, you find yourself reading each painting randomly, starting with what you see as the most salient image and connecting the dots as you make your way around the work. certainly you draw from your own experience with contemporary culture as you take in the whole of it. to paraphrase that Frank stella axiom: the narrative you see is the narrative you see. Seemingly afloat on this cross-cultural mélange is a random but dense scattering of colored plastic beads, each with a drop of white paint on top. Not much larger in diameter than map pins, the beads serve as a scrim through which you see the kaleidoscope of images aswim on the surface. hovering above the pictorial field, yet anchored to it, the beads define the picture plane. It’s a brilliant piece of conceptual legerdemain, for while the scrim serves as a lens through which to view the composition, the lens, with its thousands of tiny points of light, is also part of the image. Viewed from the side at close range, the pictorial surface disappears and the beads transform into a field of refulgent, Pointillist color. It’s a thrilling moment when you move just enough to experience the shift from one plane to another. the plane shift is our cue to consider the physical construction of a Nobu Fukui painting, for it is put together in a particular order layer upon layer. It can happen that revealing an artist’s process strips his oeuvre of its magic; however a glimpse into Fukui’s working method shows you just how much juju—magic, if you will—the artist brings to his effort. Consider how Fukui created Mythic, a large, square, two-panel piece in which a radiant white ring emerges from pictorial space, as if illuminated from deep within, to mediate his vast visual cosmos.

clockwise from top left: Art history books that Fukui mines for their images stacks of compass-cut disks organized by size and color One of the used art history books A few of Fukui's work tables as seen from the studio loft

Onto Mythic’s two canvas-covered panels Fukui adheres newspaper pages. the selection is arbitrary, simply a device to start the engine. then with the panels on the floor, he creates an acrylic underpainting directly on the newspaper. A long plank on wheels straddles the panels, allowing him to stand or squat over the surface to apply color. Mythic’s underpainting is a loose-limbed abstraction with a distinctly Pop Art sensibility and palette—swirly shapes in red, violet, yellow, and green, not quite saturated but more intense than pastel—overlaid with the enormous white “O” that unites both panels. Another set of eyes might discern the influence of Gutai. The Japanese postwar movement, with its rejection of representation and embrace of new or unusual materials, embodied a radical break from the culture’s traditional aesthetic. Fukui denies its effect on him—he would have been a child in Tokyo when the movement took hold—yet the physical engagement with his work and his decidedly idiosyncratic materials suggest that he was not entirely unaffected by its impact. In any case, while the underpainting could easily be shown as a finished work, it will provide deep atmospheric coloration behind the elements he collages next. Working from the center out, Fukui begins to pin, paste, and overlap small circular images. his selections are improvisational and intuitive, based loosely around themes. Art history is a current interest; images, especially Impressionist, are culled and compass-cut from a set of glossy Japanese art books. For Mythic the images include dreamy Renoir women, a Warhol Marilyn, and at least one Demoiselle d’Avignon. You’ll spot some vanGogh figures in there, too. Once all the images are placed, they are framed by open circles of different colors, each one electrifying the hues closest to it. Knowing each work is informed by a painting under its surface, you begin to understand the complexity of the relationship between the layers. A larger painting, the cinematically unfolding four-panel Paradise, is wildly eclectic in its visual material. cartoons, drawings, stencil lettering, even a small Stella reproduction, are scattered through an image field in which in which red and yellow predominate, punctuated by wispy clouds of viridian and violet. Fukui’s choices satisfy his chromatc sensibility. “the most important thing is color, not image,”he reminds you.

Beautiful, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 32 x 48 inches (81 x 122 cm)

In his meticulously organized studio, located about an hour north of Manhattan, materials are laid out by content, size, and color—one table for images, another for chromatic discs, shelves for pigments and paints. Each chromatic disc is cut out in the center. the centers, at one time thrown into the trash, are now saved and put to use as the composition requires. It’s is a waste-not-want-not strategy that incorporates almost every inch of the custom-color paper that Fukui paints himself. the papers are organized on their own table. Nothing is left to chance until chance becomes part of the process. Once a composition is completed it gets a thin layer of clear acrylic gel into which Fukui scatters beads by the handful, the introduction of chaos into control. so close to the end of the process, this could be the point at which the entire effort collapses into itself. too-dense clumps would obscure the images beneath; sparse areas would be unable to jump the metaphorical spark that charges the surface. the gel sets quickly, so plucking out individual beads or adding more is not an option. Assuming all goes well—and it does—the dab of opaque white paint Fukui applies to each bead brings that topmost layer of the painting into greater relief. the initial application of newspaper remains visible along the sides of each painting. text found here may suggest a name for the work, but don’t read any meaning into it. the title is arbitrarily chosen, underscoring Fukui’s anti-narrative assertions. still, the coincidence of a rapturous painting called Paradise is too splendid to ignore. Fukui, who arrived in New York city in 1963 from tokyo by way of san Francisco, was part of the wildly inventive downtown scene of the sixties and Seventies in which Pop, Op, Minimalism, and Pattern & Decoration, sprang to life in successive waves. his easel-size paintings at the time had their own particular dynamism: vertical staccato brush strokes spread energetically across the canvas. Inevitably some of the downtown dNA of that era has found its way into Fukui’s work, which has evolved over the years, but his vision hews resolutely to no movement or ism other than his own. Fukui embraces an abiding aesthetic of chromatic intelligence, riotous composition, and the exquisite rigor of precision and control. Joanne Mattera

Grand Garden, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 120 x 96 inches (305 x 244 cm)

This Spring, 2016, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 24 x 64 inches (61 x 163 cm)

Pool of Thought, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 72 x 96 inches (183 x 244 cm)

Paradise, 2016, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 96 x 192 inches (244 x 488 cm)

detail: Paradise

Light Up, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 36 x 36 inches (91 x 91 cm)

Real Omen, 2018, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 48 x 60 inches (122 x 152 cm)

Substance, 2016, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 36 x 96 inches (91 x 244 cm)

Cookie, 2018, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 24 x 18 inches (61 x 46 cm)


top: Original Gift, 2013, 72 x 120 inches (182 x 305 cm) center: stills from Fukui's delete video documentation Bottom: Rebirth Gift, 2017, 72 x 120 inches (182 x 305 cm) Opposite: delete poster with original canvas panel


An abiding aesthetic is never static. Each body of work leads to another. While underlying ideas remain rooted, the work develops to accommodate new thinking. So it is with Fukui’s Delete Project. Periodically the artist selects a work from his archive and cuts it from its support panel. the denuded panel remains, marked “deleted,” and a portion of the work is retained as physical documentation. For an artist who was active in the downtown art scene when Fluxus was in its heyday, the Delete Project would seem to be Fukui’s contemporary and deeply personal interpretation of that philosophy of change and transformation.

One of Fukui’s pieces viewed at close range and from the side

Selected Solo Exhibitions 2018 Paradise, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 2015 I Am the Fire, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 2014 Nobu Fukui, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2013 Incredulity, Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, ct Move On, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2012 gallery Weissvand, Kumagaya city, saitama, Japan We Didn’t Start the Fire, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2010 stephen haller gallery, New York, NY (catalogue) 2009 gcA contemporary, Milan, Italy 2008 stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2007 stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2005 stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2004 gallery camino Real, Boca Raton, FL stephen haller gallery, New York, NY Selected Group Exhibitions 2017 Alternative Perspectives, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 2016 Summer Breeze, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 2015 Hotspots, Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 2014 Remix: Selections from the International Collage Center Museum of Art, Bates college, Lewiston, ME 2013 Remix: Selections from the International Collage Center Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY Remix: Selections from the International Collage Center, Ewing gallery, University of tennessee, Knoxville, tN 2012 Concurrence, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY Remix: Selections from the International Collage Center daum Museum of contemporary Art, sedalia, MO 2011 Remix: Selections from the International Collage Center Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 2010 Nexus, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY 2009 Jump Cut Pop, haggerty Museum of Art Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI Playing Around, Brattleboro Museum and Art center, Vt Bicknell to Yamamoto: Gibson Gallery Acquisitions Roland Gibson Gallery, SUNY, Potsdam, NY Continuum, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY


2007 2006 2005

In America, takasaki city Museum, gunma, Japan Words Become Pictures, Molloy college Art gallery, Rockville centre, NY Constant Aesthetic 2008, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY York International collection of contemporary Art UsAO Art gallery, chickasha, Oklahoma ART20 2007, The Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY ART20 2006, The Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY Focal Point, stephen haller gallery, New York, NY

Selected Bibliography 2015 Fukui, Nobu, First Person: Nobu Fukui, tilted Arc, April 2014 New Britain Museum Of American Art Acquires Major Nobu Fukui, February 22 2013 Wong, Maggie, Fun & Games… Artparasites, Berlin, August 30 Autumn Exhibitions At The Museums, the country and Abroad, Fall 2012 Remix: Selections From The International Collage Center, January Mixed Media Art By Nobu Fukui, International collage center 2010 Press Art — Sammlung Annette & Peter Nobel Stampfli Publikationen AG, Bern, Switzerland Ratcliff, Carter, Nobu Fukui, Exhibition catalogue 2009 seo, Jake, Today In Chelsea, chelsea story in NY, January 15 2008 genocchio, B., Catching The Imagination In Language And Imagery New York times, February 24 Budick, Ariella, The Eye Can Be Drawn..., Newsday, March 14 2007 Murphy, Michael tyson, Dizzy Superheroes, Village Voice, June 21 Nobu Fukui - Looking Forward- At Stephen Haller Gallery Art Knowledge News, June 12 2005 Ratcliff, Carter, States Of Stability, Art In America, May 2004 glueck, grace, Art in Review: Nobu Fukui, New York times, May 14 Malhotra, Priya, A Man Of Spirited Exploration, Asian Art News cohen, david, Nobu Fukui, New York sun, April 22 2000 heartney, Eleanor, Fukui Central Fine Arts, Art In America, February 1993 geldzahler, henry, Nobu Fukui, Marisa del Re gallery Exhibition catalog Ebony, david, Nobu Fukui At Marisa Del Re, Art In America, June 1992 turner, Elisa, Gallery Review, the Miami herald, February 12 1991 hurlburt, Roger, Boca Bounty, the sun-sentinel, March 3 1990 Ratcliff, Carter, Notes On Line, Art In America, June 1987 Miro, Marsha, Eye On Art, The Detroit Free Press, November 11 Derfner, Phyllis, Reviews, Art In America, October Ratcliff, Carter, An Art Of Plentitude, Patricia Hamilton Exhibition Catalog

A plank on wheels allows Fukui to reach all areas of even his largest works

Real, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 72 x 23 inches (183 x 58 cm)

1979 1977 1975 1974 1973 1972 1971 1970



Ehrlich, Robbie, Reviews, Arts Magazine, April saint-gilles, Amaury, Art: People And Places, March 25 harris, timothy, Arts, the Asahi Evening News, March 31 Weissman, Julian, Reviews, Art News, May Lubell, Ellen, Reviews, Arts Magazine, February Derfner, Phyllis, New York, Art International, February Brunelle, Al. Reviews, Art News, February Lubell, Ellen, Reviews, Arts Magazine, February, saint-giles, Amaury, Art: People And Places, Mainichi daily News, July 13 Asakura, toshihiro, Summer In New York, the Asahi graph, August 4 Brook, donald, Something For Everyone, sydney Morning herald, May 4 shirley, david, Art... Construction Shifts, the New York times, January 15 Adelson, Larry, Kosaka, Fukui Exhibit In City, the Michigan daily, March 23 Slusser, Jean Paul, Tempo... On Local Front, Ann Arbor News, March 21 Love, Joseph, Tokyo Letter, Art International, March Nemser, cindy, Reviews, Arts Magazine, summer siegal, Jeanne, Reviews And Previews, Art News, May dominis, John Living, Big In A Loft, Life Magazine, March 27 Judd, donald, In The Galleries, Arts Magazine, March Neuman, thomas, 1965 Reviews And Previews, Art News, February Preston, Stuart, Thebodybuilder: Nonobjectivity the New York times, January 31 Kanemitsu, Matsumi, For Second Departure: Japanese Artists In New York International Art, september

Selected Public Collections National Museum of Modern Art, tokyo, Japan New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, ct Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan International Collage Center, Milton, PA chase Manhattan Bank, New York, NY University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI The Larry Aldrich Collection, Ridgefield, CT tougaloo college Art Museum, Jackson, Ms Gibson Gallery, State University of New York, Potsdam, NY takasaki city Museum, gunma, Japan University of science and Arts of Oklahoma, chickasha, Oklahoma

Moment, 2017, Beads, mixed media on canvas over panel, 48 x 32 inches (122 x 81)

NOBU FUKUI Paradise March 1 - April 7, 2018

Copyright Š Margaret Thatcher Projects Essay Š Joanne Mattera* Photography: Kevin Tadge, Victoria Alvarenga, Joanne Mattera catalogue design: daniel Ferris LLc *Joanne Mattera is an exhibiting painter who writes regularly about art in her own art blog and contributes to the print quarterly, Surface Design Journal.




Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.