(Japan, b. 1948)
Kiyoto Ota was born in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. He began his artistic studies in Tokyo at the age of nineteen, moving to Mexico in 1972 at the age of twenty-three to study at the Escuela de Nacional de Pintura y Escultura (La Esmeralda), followed by studies at the Centro de Investigación y Experimentación Plastica in 1977; both institutions are part of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA). Ota obtained his master’s degree in sculpture at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas at UNAM in 1999.
Ota has lived in Mexico for more than 40 years; nevertheless, he still considers himself a Japanese artist, and his sculptures and large-scale installations embody the essence of his Japanese heritage. The artist explains that he is not consciously thinking about his heritage while working, but that these elements simply appear. He believes that perhaps his “intuition is Japanese.”
In his compositions, Ota favors materials such as stone, paper, iron, and wood. Always minimalist, his pieces are charged with personal meaning, often alluding to private experiences and reflections. His wooden work addresses the relationship between space-and-place and space-and-privacy; some of these structures recreate the shape of the uterus, while others are houses that allow the viewer to experiment with sensorial experiences. His iron work is created conceptually, using metal as a catalyst of energy.
Ota moved to Mexico in search of a new experience—an exchange of ideas different from that available to friends of his who traveled to Paris or New York for inspiration. Mexico has given the artist the freedom to follow his own, dynamically innovative path.
Ota has exhibited extensively around the world. Notably, he contributed work to the extraordinary group exhibition Crystal Jungle (2011) at the Museo Universitario de Chopo, which included a diverse group of Japanese artists living in Mexico, as well as Mexican artists descended from Japanese families. He also participated in Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition,Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of the Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City and São Paulo in 2017.