Rakuko Naito Japanese - American, b. 1935

Rakuko Naito (b. 1935 Tokyo, Japan) studied at the Nihonga (modern Japanese-style painting) program of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. In 1958 she left the conservative Tokyo for New York City where she has lived and worked ever since throughout her impressive six-decade career. Belonging to the generation of diasporic Japanese artists born before World War II who have lived in New York, including Arakawa, Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, and Minoru Niizuma who all escaped the censorship of the totalitarian regime of which Art would be subject to. In New York the she flourished and played an integral role in the Minimalism movement, where artists favoured industrial materials, avoided overt symbolism and emotional content, and instead called attention to the materiality of the works, working alongside artists such as Donald Judd and Frank Stella.
In the 1960s Naito began as a minimal Op artist experimenting with the Moire effect after being introduced to acrylic paint (an American material) by her friend, the painter Sam Francis. before moving on to working with the paper assemblages that she has dedicated her artistic practice to for the past three decades. Working with kozo and mino washi; traditional Japanese papers which can be traced back to the Nara period in 8th century Japan, Naito contrasts this strong-fibred, man-made material with the organic forms produced by tearing, rolling, folding, and burning the paper. A modern combination of drawing and sculpture, Naito plays with order and structure, strength and vulnerability.
Naito was keen to avoid the artists hand, and any trace of human narrative, with both artists choosing not to use titles (only an alphanumeric identification code) discarding any suggestion of excess with extreme restraint. Naito, however, allows the organic and imperfect forms of the neutral-coloured natural material to take precedence allowing a measure of poetry and philosophical reflection. Naito has said, “I feel natural forms and textures have a reality that can not be competed by trying to paint or drawn by hand. I try to experiment and manipulate materials to create my own world.”
Naito’s work is in the permanent collections of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Voorlinden Museum, Wassenaar, Netherlands; Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and The Larry Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Naito was an artist in Residence at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in 2003.