Yūgen: Profound Grace and Subtlety in the Art of
Tanaka Ryohei and Inoue Kozo

Exhibition Dates: March 13 – April 18

Yūgen may be the most ineffable among ideas relating to Japanese aesthetics. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers the explanations of “mysterious grace” and “mysterious profundity,” which may be experienced when looking at autumn mountains through mist or contemplating the flight of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds. We believe another portal to yūgen can be found in the art of Tanaka Ryohei and Inoue Kozo.

In 1963, when he was well beyond school age, Tanaka Ryohei started his artistic career under Professor Furuno Yoshio. What lured him into the arts was the medium: etching. Unlike many of his peers, Tanaka knew what he wanted to depict: the world in which he had grown up and still lived, in particular where man and nature combined. His minutely accurate etchings focus on thatched-roof farmhouses and threadlike tree branches that are quickly disappearing from the Japanese landscape. Human figures play almost no part in Tanaka’s works, but they are implied at every turn. Their absence along with his color selection of umber, black and greenish gray tones provide a sense of quiet and distance. What grabbed Tanaka as an artist also grabs us: the use of etching to bring life and spirit to a place of habitation – a place that we may call our own.

Born in 1937 in Osaka, Japan, Inoue Kozo graduated with a degree in the History of Western Art from Keio University in 1960. Afterward, he went to France to study at Académie de la Grande Chaumière and since then has been splitting his time between Japan and France. In Inoue’s images, simple motifs are used with gradations of a few colors in the background. Despite, or perhaps because of, the seemingly simple designs, his serigraphs convey sophistication and a poetic sense of tranquility. Ordinary objects, such as fruits, flowers and butterflies, are suspended in space, thus creating a dreamlike world that fosters intrigue and beckons us to enter.