Kazuo Wakabayashi 

(Japan, b. 1931)

 

Born in Kobe, Japan, in 1931, Kazuo Wakabayashi was already a trained artist when he immigrated to São Paulo in 1961. There, he became an influential member of the Japanese-Brazilian artistic community, joining the Seibi-Kai (Grupo de Artistas Plásticos de São Pablo), in which Tomie Ohtake and Manabu Mabe were already important figures. In an interview, he explained how essential Mabe’s support was for him as a newly emigrated artist finding his place in the Japanese artistic community in Brazil. Wakabayashi quickly gained popularity in Brazil, Japan, and the United States; and in 1965, just four years after his arrival in Brazil, he participated in a group exhibition of Japanese-Brazilian artists at the Organization of American States, where he also held his first US solo show in 1969. 

 

In the 1940s and 1950s, while still in Japan, Wakabayashi experimented with figure studies, landscapes, and portraits of the female body. His later, mature work can be divided into two periods. The first—beginning with his arrival in Brazil and continuing through the 1960s and 1970s—can be categorized as “informalist”, while also adhering to geometric principles, and is marked by thick, texturized surfaces and abstract, monochromatic forms. Regarding this first period, he has explained that his goal was to detach himself artistically from the Japanese tradition and look for what he calls the “real Brazilian heart”—although (ironically) much of his work in this period seems evocative, in its structure, of Japanese calligraphy. In his second and latest period, beginning in the 1980s, he returned overtly to Japanese tradition, translating characteristics of traditional Japanese woodcuts, and specifically Ukiyo-e prints—e.g., decorative effects, bright colors, and simple curved outlines—into three-dimensional, large-scale paintings and prints.

Wakabayashi of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1969
Wakabayashi of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1969

Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

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Wakabayashi of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1969
Wakabayashi of Brazil. OAS exhibition brochure, 1969

Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

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