Katsumi Nakai

b. 1927
d. 2013

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Biography

Katsumi Nakai was a Japanese visual artist, born in 1927 in Hirakata, Osaka. He studied painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Osaka, and from 1953-59 he exhibited at the collective exhibitions Dokuritsu Bijutsu. His first solo exhibition took place in 1956 at Omote Gallery in Osaka. In 1958, he was among the seven founding artists of the avant-garde group of abstract and informal art Tekkeikai, which was active from Kyoto to Osaka until the mid-1960s. In subsequent years, they were awarded the Shell Art Prize and the Prize of the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun for the exhibition Kansai Sogo.

In 1964, Nakai left Japan for a trip planned for Europe and the United States, and his stop in Milan attracted him to the artistic stimuli of the city, so he temporarily relocated to Italy, which further developed his unique point of view. Nakai soon entered the circle of artists that in 1967 writer and art critic Guido Ballo described as the “New Milanese School” (Nuova Scuola di Milano). Among them were personalities such as Lucio Fontana and Tomonori Toyofuku, as well as: Enrico Baj, Agostino Bonalumi, Paolo Scheggi, Enrico Castellani, and Nanda Vigo. In particular, Lucio Fontana and gallerist Renato Cardazzo played pivotal roles in the shaping of Nakai’s artistic practice in Milan.

Nakai was interested in Fontana’s idea of Spatialism, and how it was felt as a breach of artistic conventions, allowing for concepts such as time and space to enter the canvas. Cardazzo gave Nakai his first solo exhibition at Galleria del Cavallino, Venice in 1965, as well as multiple exhibitions at Galleria del Naviglio, Milan. Nakai’s multi-coloured wooden apertures probe the pictorial surface and its levels of dimensionality, which are delicately raised and projected into the viewer’s space. In this sense, Nakai’s work exceeds the limits of the flat canvas, by staging interplay between outward projections, form, and volumes.

Nakai returned to live in Japan in 1996 and he died in Hirakata in 2013. In 2004, the Italian Kyoto Institute of Culture organized the seminal exhibition ‘Katsumi Nakai – Open’, while Ronchini Gallery gave the artist his first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom in February 2018.

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Exhibitions

2018 Ronchini Gallery, London, UK

2016 Katsumi Nakai: Aperture, Italian Cultural Institute – Osaka/Festival DIM at Kuzuha Art Gallery, Hirakata, Japan

Kuzuha Art Gallery, Hirakata, Japan

2007 Hakuho Umeda Gallery, Osaka, Japan

2004 Aperto, Italian Cultural Institute, Kyoto, Japan

2003 Katsumi Nakai’s Works 1996-1999, Hirakata Civic Art Gallery, Osaka, Japan

1992 Katsumi Nakai 1967-1986, Hirakata Civic Gotenyama Art Center, Osaka, Japan

Gallery Kuro, Osaka, Japan

1990 Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy

1988 Toa Road Gallery, Kobe, Japan

1986 Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

Today’s Author Series: Katsumi Nakai 1967-1985, Osaka

Prefectural Contemporary Art Center, Osaka, Japan

Hiramatsu Print Gallery, Osaka, Japan

White Gallery, Osaka, Japan

1984 Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy

1983 Mudo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1981 Kasahara Gallery, Osaka, Japan

1979 Kuro Salon, Osaka, Japan Bon à Tirer Gallery, Milan, Italy

1978 Lyda-Levi, Milan, Italy Arco Gallery, Chieri, Italy

1977 Giuli Gallery, Lecco, Italy

1976 Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy