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Light and Shadow

Naoki Takenouchi

May 30 ~ June , 2006
Opening Reception June 2 (Fri.) 6 ~ 8 pm

Curated by Thalia Vrachopoulos, PhD.

Takenouchi’s art transcends the boundaries of painting and sculpture to become installation that because of its grandness results in the notion of aware or unexpected delight. Aware is the equivalent of the English word sublime that describes unusual beauty resulting in awe-inspiring sensation. Perhaps because of his background in theater design, he often undertakes monumental installations in unusual settings such as quarries, as a way of both altering reality and as a challenge. Takenouchi’s work is unit based and modular resulting in larger images able to enhance enormous spaces. His constructions made of woodblock prints shaped by bamboo frames can range up to 150 feet in length but usually they average about 35 feet each. These black and white monochromes are composite modules that present us with an endless repetition but in their theme also variety

 Takenouchi’s Stone Buddha comprised of a series of woodblocks shaped into rocklike formations that incorporate the Tenri Gallery’s columns, results in a site specific forest of trees and rocks. Separately each piece can be read as a Buddha figure but also as garden of monoliths. The formation’s unevenness repeats the shapes of the Japanese mountain ranges but also to the North Korean range Kumgang-san with whom Buddha images are associated. Takenouchi’s constructions embody the intrinsic nature of Japanese esthetics “suggestion, irregularity, simplicity, and perishability.” His forms are suggestive of the Buddha figure rather than being descriptive on the motif, his compositional designs are asymmetrically laid out, his monochromatic tones simple yet sensuous, and his medium perishable paper. His works are understated expressions of symbolic form characterized by grand gesture.

 His Fossilized Birds are encased in steel cages enabling the viewer to come into contact with their own vulnerability in that they produce an unnerving sensation maintaining their critical edge as artworks. The birds have already fossilized to become part of the rocks into which they’ve permutated. Upon closer examination, the variegated shapes of his artistic vocabulary become apparent as they are painted in white upon Japanese black paper. Birds sitting on bamboo branches and foliage, natural rocks and valleys, heathered hills and vales, appear and disappear into the cun folds of mountains, to reappear on their crests. The rock formations into which Takenouchi has shaped his bird fossils can be discussed in light of the recent discoveries of Paleontologists in China that unearthed a 121-year old fossil bird embryo that is possibly the world’s oldest. Or, his Fossilized Birds can be seen in terms of reincarnation which in Buddhism is the most important concept espousing endless rebirth until one has learned enough to arrive at the state of nirvana. In physical terms, when mammals die, their physical bodies return to nature to become minerals that feed the plants that feed humanity in a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth. In any case processes are tantamount to Takenouchi’s oeuvre in the form of aging, nature, transmutation, transcendence, or alteration.

Vanishing Point, 2006, 90 x 95 x 4", India ink on Japanese paper, Acrylic, Bamboo
Stone Buddha, 2006, 10 x 9 x 24", India ink on Japanese paper, Wire

 Takenouchi engages his proclivity to use natural processes for another of his series is entitled Corrosion. These works’ rectilinear frame on three sides is reminiscent of a man-made object while the organic shapes within it are biomorphic combining to advance the notion of a nature-culture juxtaposition. While it is true that Corrosion I and II (Japanese paper, ink and color) are organized into black and white box shapes from the bottom corner of each piece emerges another soft irregular form in color. And it appears as if a fine velvety liquid is spilling out of the corner of a box. Or, as if brilliantly colored tissues are brimming the lid of a container, its overflowing contents tumbling out into our space. Takenouchi is clearly a master in command both of his media, and his artistic vocabulary who has created a body of work worthy of a samurai practicing bushido.

Dr. Thalia Vrachopoulos,


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