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Yutaka Toyota 

(Japan, b. 1931)


Born in the northern Japanese city of Tendō, Yamagata Prefecture, Yutaka Toyota graduated in 1954 from Tokyo University of Arts, where he studied landscape painting. While in school, Toyota witnessed the devastation of World War II, which had a profound effect on him. After a few years of working at the Institute of Small Industries in Shizuoka, he moved to Brazil in search of new possibilities, which led him to open a furniture atelier in the Liberdade neighborhood of São Paulo. In the first half of the 1960s, he began to paint landscapes once again, but soon moved on to informal abstract painting, much of it expressing cosmological themes. His informalist work integrated the symbol ensō (Japanese for “circle”) as part of its cosmological vision—presaging the prominent role geometry would play in his later work. During this period, his work maintained a singular balance between the Zen Buddhist philosophy of his upbringing and more Western influences, such as the informal abstract art trends of Europe and the United States.


During a 1960 trip to Argentina, Toyota began an artistic quest that would dramatically change his work, eventually spurring a voyage to Italy in 1965 to study the work of the Argentine artist Lucio Fontana, whose art incorporates elements of space theory. It was during this time that Toyota began to develop his abstract geometric style, which focuses on a visionary search for a new dimension and cosmic space.


Triangle, circle, and square are the building blocks of Toyota’s abstract vision of the cosmic world. Using concave and convex mirrors as symbols of an invisible space, he creates kinetic pieces that invite the viewer to seek a new dimension. To develop his work, Toyota looked closely at the oeuvre of other Latin American artists, such as Julio LePark and Jesús Rafel Soto, who produce striking, innovative works in the realms of kinetic and participatory art.  Today, Toyota is world-famous for his monumental public sculptures, such as Cosmic Space (1979) in Toyotomi Park, Hokkaido, Japan.


Like many of his Japanese-Brazilian contemporaries, Toyota joined the Japanese-Brazilian artists’ group Seibi-Kai (Grupo de Artistas Plásticos de São Paulo). It was through his involvement with Seibi-Kai that he was invited to exhibit at the Organization of American States in 1972.

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