Aki Kuroda by Mariko Kuroda and Yoyo Maeght - Biography 1 - 1944 to 1982

Aki Kuroda was born in Kyoto on October 4, 1944.

His father, a professor of economics at the University of Doshisha (Kyoto), stayed in France and Germany during the interwar period. He knows and appreciates European culture. We owe him the creation of two design schools, one of which was devoted to the study of the work of the Bauhaus. He also took an active part in cinematographic creation (Kyoto was then, in Japan, the city of cinema).

His paternal great-uncle, Jutaro Kuroda, considered the first Japanese cubist, largely contributed to introducing this pictorial movement to Japan.

An only child, Aki was raised in an atmosphere of freedom. Very open-minded, his family strives to introduce him to different cultures and religions, as well as different ways of thinking.

Aki's father has a large library enriched with a collection of art books dealing with visual arts in the West. During a stay in Paris, he subscribed to the artistic and literary review Le Minotaure, by Skira and Tériade, whose thirteen issues were published between June 1933 and May 1939. Breton, Dali, de Chirico, Derain, Duchamp , Éluard, Ernst, Magritte, Man Ray, Masson, Matisse, Miró, Picasso, Reverdy, Tzara and Kurt Weill, among others, collaborated on this review. It was while consulting her that Aki received her first artistic shock. Aki then does not read French or our alphabet. Only the illustrations are accessible to him.

Aki began painting at the age of three. Her father, who himself practiced Western-inspired oil painting, and one of whose favorite subjects was the representation of roses, wanted Aki to have access to all forms of expression, he offered her painting, sculpture and calligraphy equipment. At four years old, Aki painted his first oil painting.

Between 1954 and 1958 some of Aki's paintings were exhibited in various Salons.

Between 1958 and 1965.

Kyoto is strongly imbued with Zen traditions. The non-conformist tendency of this religion promotes openness to multiple marginal experiences. Kyoto thus became one of the places chosen by certain representatives of the “Beat Generation”.

While still in high school, Aki met James Lee Byars (1932-1997). This will be his first defining friendship. Aki attends Byars' performances (the American artist silently folds papers, at midnight, in a Zen temple, or else, dressed in a black suit, his forehead girded with a headband, throws gold powder at Round). Beyond somewhat provocative appearances, Byars is in search of the perfect aesthetic moment, which finds particular resonance in Japan.

Aki Kuroda then rejects Japanese culture, associated with war and its disasters. From 1960 to 1965, he also abandoned painting, although he practiced it in a visceral way. He organizes happenings. One of them, entitled Fetus Dream (1965), features, in the auditorium of Doshisha University, actors moving around inside a huge plastic bag, similar to a cocoon, a stomach or a brain, then tear the bag and throw threads at the spectators whom they provoke in various ways.

Between 1965 and 1969

At the initiative of his father's former students, Aki leaves for the West. He stayed six months in France, but also in Spain, and six months in the United States.

Officially, he must do research for a university work devoted to Picabia (he is enrolled in aesthetics courses at the University of Doshisha, in Kyoto). But during this trip, Aki does not visit any museums, does not visit any exhibitions and does not register in any library. Above all, he seeks to soak up the atmosphere and light of the countries he visits.

After a year of exploration, he returned to Japan, where he completed his university studies.

Between 1970 and 1973

The opportunity to return to Paris presented itself when the Japanese sculptor Yasuo Mizui (born in 1925) asked Aki to become his assistant. On February 15, 1970, with Mariko, whom he married in May, Aki joined Mizui in Paris. At this time, Mizui worked with stone. Kuroda maintains a difficult and conflicting contact with this hard material which he hardly appreciates. After a year of work, he abandoned Mizui's workshop.

For three years, Kuroda lived as a nomad in Paris and its suburbs, frequently changing addresses and hotels. He frequented the Japanese surrealist milieu of Montparnasse. As he already did in Japan, he spent hours sitting on café terraces, observing the comings and goings of passers-by, taking notes, drawing or writing. Aki does not, however, seek to make contact with Parisians. He does not try to learn to speak French, on the other hand, he reads a lot, particularly visual art magazines, but also theater, music and dance. He often sits on his bed and tries his hand at works on paper, which he describes as “small works”. The surrealist tendency of these testifies to the first influences received through contact with the magazine Minotaure .

In the spring of 1971, Aki Kuroda left for Quiberon. He went to Carnac and remained captivated by the modernity of the alignments of menhirs. In December of that year, Aki and Mariko left by train for Italy, with no destination or route planned. They discovered Rome, the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli and the Hadrian's Villa. Italians they met one night in Rome guided them for a few days in Italy. The following summer, he returned to Italy with Japanese friends he had met in Paris. It passes through Turin, Genoa, Parma, Pisa and Florence. On the way back, he stopped at Hauterives (Drôme), to visit the Ideal Palace built by the factor Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) with stones collected during his tours. Kuroda stores up as many references as possible and reconstructs his art history.

Few works come from this period. No canvas, not even paintings on paper. Only a few notebooks bear witness to this amalgamation of received cultures. He clandestinely creates a nocturnal installation in the Luxembourg Gardens. There remains no trace or testimony of this illicit investment.

1974 Aki Kuroda finally settles in Paris, place Adolphe Chérieux, in the 15th arrondissement. He occupies a very small ground floor apartment.

He then goes back to painting. The main room, whose surface area does not exceed twenty square meters, is transformed into a workshop. Kuroda creates paintings there but also objects with a surrealist spirit. He uses colored stickers, cotton and cake molds which he freezes in Plexiglas. He erases a series of postcards, which he calls Effaçade. He creates installations with white beans, pieces of wood and fragments of plaster in the shape of pebbles, which he paints then distributes in large boxes.

During the summer of 1974, he left again for Italy with Kimio Jinno, a university friend found in Paris and now a philosophy student. The first part of the trip, which is organized as working sessions, is devoted to the Farnese Palace, several sites from the Mannerist period and the fantastic gardens of Bomarzo, designed in 1552 by Pirro Ligorio, at the request of Prince Orsini. Aki is fascinated by the Bomarzo labyrinth, which he discovered in the work that the Dutch woman of letters Hella S. Hasse dedicated to him in 1968 ( The Gardens of Bomarzo ).

In Reading Tags , this same author wrote: “Wandering through a labyrinth is the very mark of the awareness which precedes modification, of the descent into oneself before rebirth in a new reality” . He again visits the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli and the Villa Hadriana. He wants to return to the places of the previous trip in order to fully immerse himself in it. Then he ventured as far south as Naples and Bari.

The following summer, he discovered Spain, from Barcelona to Toledo, from Toledo to Cordoba then to Granada, Seville, where he attended a bullfight for the first time, Cadiz, Madrid, San Sebastian. He stocks up on images and prints. More than the works in museums, it is the Mediterranean light that captivates him.

Fascinated by the Arab architecture of Andalusia, he decided to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. Due to lack of a visa, he was prevented from continuing his journey to the other side of the Mediterranean.

1976 Several of his drawings are presented at the World Surrealist Exhibition in Chicago. He has not yet participated in any gallery exhibition.

He receives a visit from his parents in Paris. Together they leave for Rome.

He participates in an exhibition at the American Center in Paris. At the initiative of the Japanese critic Jun Ebara, Aki's paintings were presented at the Cagnes-sur-mer International Painting Festival, where he met the neo-Dadaist artist Kudo. He visits the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul. Miró's labyrinth responds to his concern for perfection both through its mental dimension and through its configuration which recalls the serenity of Japanese gardens. The presence of a chapel in this cultural place reminds him of the performances of James Le Byars in the Zen temples in Kyoto.

A friend provides him with an apartment in Brussels. Aki prepared several paintings there which were presented at the “Prix Europe de la Peinture” exhibition, which took place in 1978 in Ostend. Over the next three years, Aki made several trips to Brussels.

1978 His friend Toshi Maeno, a young Japanese critic, supports him at the Kunsthalle in Bremerhaven (Germany), which allows Aki to present for the first time a personal exhibition of his works created in Paris. Back in Paris, he met Nina Dausset, who offered to exhibit some paintings in the gallery she had just opened on rue de Lille, unfortunately no sale was concluded. Aki Kuroda finds himself in a critical economic situation, which makes him consider returning to Japan. Before leaving Paris, he decided to create a few paintings. He nourishes the conviction that nothing has really started yet.

With the financial help of Kimio Jinno, a friend known at Kyoto University, he purchased several frames, canvases and paint. The two meter by two meter canvases quickly invade the tiny apartment. They are stacked against the walls. No overview is possible. The diptychs (two meters by four), too long to rest on the walls, cut the room diagonally. The canvases organize his living space, just as, ten years later, they will organize the different spaces of his installations.

Aki participates in: “Works on paper objects” in Villeparisis and “International Exhibition of Original Drawings” at the Museum of Modern Art in Rijeka, Yugoslavia.

In a café in the 15th arrondissement, he met a Franco-Yugoslav couple of journalists through whom he came into contact with the painter Ljuba. He also met and became friends with Anne Tronche, art critic, then with Peter Klasen, who regularly exhibited at the Maeght gallery. These meetings will prove decisive. Although Aki has not yet sold any works and her resources are exhausted, Aki and Mariko decide not to leave Paris.

1979 Vrije Universiteit in Brussels organizes a personal exhibition by Aki Kuroda who, the same year, participates in “G rands and young people today” at the Grand Palais in Paris. Collective exhibition at the Nina Dausset Gallery.

1980 Through Peter Klasen, the Maeght family meets Aki Kuroda, but the planned visit to the workshop proves impossible; only a few cramped passages are not cluttered by paintings. The huge canvases have invaded the apartment. It is impossible to see them completely, some have come out onto the sidewalk to benefit from a little perspective. At the Maeghts' request, the paintings were transported to the gallery. They will remain there because they decide to exhibit them a few months later during a personal exhibition by Aki Kuroda in the gallery on rue du Bac. The exhibitions at Galerie Maeght are then accompanied by the publication of a lithographic poster and a catalog also including lithographic creations. The Arte printing house, rue Daguerre, allowed Aki to discover printmaking techniques. He will now use them regularly to take on new forms. His first original lithographs are published.

On October 30, 1980, the opening of the first personal exhibition of Aki Kuroda's works took place at the Galerie Maeght. Marguerite Duras (1914-1996), met a few months earlier in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, was immediately seduced, as much by the character as by his works. She wants to support this artist from Japan whom she loves so much. Marguerite Duras, who is one of Aki Kuroda's favorite authors, therefore wrote the text The Darkness of Aki Kuroda prefacing the exhibition catalogue. She will include this text in the collection Outside published by Albin Michel a few months later.

The exhibition presents all the large canvases and diptychs created over several months, the workshop is empty, Aki goes back to work with frenzy. Maeght becomes its exclusive dealer who, from now on, will exhibit it every year. The complicity between Maeght and Kuroda gives him complete freedom to design his exhibitions, catalogs and editions.

The same year, Aki Kuroda was selected to appear in the French selection for the 11th Paris Biennale. Anne Tronche comments on her work in the catalog. Some critics support Kuroda's work by publishing texts, Otto Hahn in Expre ss and the review + – 0 , Alain Macaire in Canal Manach , and Claire Nadau in Libération , E. Couturier in Art Press

1981 Aki Kuroda meets other artists from the Galerie Maeght, Gasiorowski, Voss, Bazaine... He often goes to Saint-Paul, where he particularly appreciates the company of Miró, who has been coming for more than thirty years every summer at the Maeghts where he has an engraving workshop. Aki is moved when he sees the huge press on which Miró painted a dedication. Joan Miró and Aki isolate themselves and talk at length in the Labyrinth that Miró created in the gardens of the Maeght Foundation. A few years later, Aki will take over the Saint-Paul workshop every summer to create his large engravings on copper, wood, linoleum or carborundum.

Back in Paris, Aki prepares new paintings for his next exhibition at the Galerie Maeght. The apartment is literally invaded by paintings: the canvases are superimposed in the room which serves as a workshop, while the bedroom is transformed into a storage room.

Despite protests from those around him, the artist destroyed several paintings. He suddenly decided to break with the black of the Ténèbres series, in favor of blue, inspired by Kyoto blue, the color used by his paternal grandfather, a kimono manufacturer. He then painted The Fall of Icarus . A silhouette, figure or caryatid, gradually emerges in his works: “These figures seem to be constituted from the precipitation, in the chemical sense of the term, of a set of signs which, at the same time, establish and divide them. » Marcellin Pleynet, text from the exhibition catalog “ContiNUITé”.

He goes to Arte daily, where he observes the use of all the different printing techniques. Engraving particularly appealed to him and his first etchings were published. No hesitation, the gesture is sure and assertive, whether it is engraving a copper plate, using the lithographic pencil or the gouge for linoleum.

Anne Tronche publishes in issue 80 of Opus International, Voyage au Noir on the paintings from the “Ténèbres” exhibition. His friend Toshi Maeno writes a text about him in Bijutsutecho.

He participates in the “Déserts” exhibition in Villeneuve-lès Avignon. Works are exhibited at the Bonnat Museum in Bayonne and at the Taidemuseo, Sara Hildenin in Finland.

1982 Aki Kuroda regularly meets a man in a bakery on rue de Vaugirard. They exchange a few words, sympathize. This is the philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Foucault attends the opening of the second Kuroda exhibition at the Galerie Maeght; he is greatly impressed by the blue paintings. His comments provide crucial support for Kuroda. The “ContiNUITé” exhibition is accompanied by a catalog for which Marcellin Pleynet wrote the text: The War of Figures and Signs .

Aki meets Yves Simon, man of letters and singer. Sharing a common vision of space, Yves Simon wrote several texts for Kuroda. Then works by Kuroda will appear on the covers of books by Yves Simon including La rushe vers l'infini.

The personal exhibition at the Tarbes Cultural Center offers the visitor a journey among the black canvases. A work is presented at the Parisian exhibition: “Electrography in the metro”.