Manabu Mabe 

 (Japan, b. 1924 – Brazil, d. 1997)

 

Manabu Mabe was born in Japan and immigrated to Brazil with his family in 1934 at the age of ten. Much of his youth was spent working on a coffee plantation, where—to his father’s disapproval—he spent much of his free time sketching and painting. In 1947, Mabe and other artists re-established the collective Seibi-Kai (Grupo de Artistas Plásticos de São Paulo), which not only helped to shape his career but also enabled his support of other Japanese artists in Brazil. Mabe began to receive recognition for his artwork in the early 1950s, and in 1957 sold his farm and moved to São Paulo, finally dedicating his life fully to art. 
 

In 1959, Mabe was awarded the title of Best National Painter at the São Paulo Biennial and went on to achieve international fame as one of the most eminent Brazilian artists. Time magazine declared 1959 “The Year of Manabu Mabe,” and in the early 1960s Mabe traveled throughout the United States and Europe to promote his work. Although his early work in the 1950s depicts figurative subjects, such as landscapes, he also experimented with geometry as a way to minimize the role of figures on the canvas, perhaps as a response to the emerging Brazilian Neo-Concrete Movement. Mabe’s mature style is characterized by bursts of color and line upon color-blocked, monochromatic backgrounds. His unique approach to informalism incorporates the graceful lines of his study of Japanese calligraphy while echoing the evocative strokes of Zen Buddhist painting. His mature work also employs elements reminiscent of the Japanese Gutai Group; however, some scholars argue that Mabe’s technique lacks the aggressiveness of the work of the Gutai artists, who lived through the ruinous aftermath of World War II. 

 

Beginning in the 1960s, Mabe formed a close relationship with the Organization of the American States, which led to four solo exhibitions of his work.

Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961
Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961

Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961
Japanese Artists of the Americas. OAS exhibition pamphlet, 1961

Archives of the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

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