Kazuo Nakamura

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Kazuo Nakamura

1926 - 2002

Kazuo Nakamura was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1926. He moved to Toronto in 1948, where he studied at the Central Technical School until 1951. In the early 1950s, Nakamura’s work drew closer to abstraction, and he joined the important Canadian group of artists known as Painters Eleven. Unlike the other members of this ground-breaking group, his work did not follow the gestural approach of the Abstract Expressionists, but a precise and subtle treatment of his pictorial elements through his abstract landscapes. Nakamura credited Painters Eleven artist Jock MacDonald and László Moholy-Nagy as his spiritual teachers and two of his life’s principal influences. Nakamura was keenly interested in science, which revealed the structures inherent in nature, and felt that there was a fundamental universal pattern in both art and nature. His treatment of landscape encompassed both the natural world and abstraction, and the delicate fracturing of the image was both subtle and harmonious.

Nakamura was part of the first exhibition by Painters Eleven in February of 1954 at Toronto’s Roberts Gallery. From 1953 to 1956, he would exhibit in six other Painters Eleven shows, as well as in numerous Ontario Society of Fine Arts and other art society exhibitions. In 1955 he was included in the First Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Painting at the National Gallery of Canada, and in 1956 participated in the fourth International Exhibition of Drawings and Prints in Lugano, Switzerland. In the late 1950s he participated in numerous international exhibitions from New York to Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Yugoslavia.

From 1954 to 1957, Nakamura produced Block Structure paintings and sculpture, followed by his String series, a suite of monochromatic landscapes. In the 1960s, he worked on a series of sculptural towers similar to inukshuks, which he called Tower Structures. In the early 1970s, his work took a dramatic turn - he abandoned his previous styles, and during the next 25 years produced a body of work entitled the Number Structures, containing grids, tables and triangles, in which he connected mathematics and art.

In 2001, a retrospective was mounted by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, which traveled to Charlottetown, Kingston, Hamilton and Saskatoon. After his death in 2002, the Art Gallery of Ontario organized a retrospective of his work in 2004 entitled A Human Measure.