Artist StatementI am Japanese, born in 1976. At this time our society, which had been Americanized after WWII had finally become fully industrialized. As a Japanese man living in America, I feel we are losing our sense of tradition now more than ever as a byproduct of time and the forgetting of traditional fables. After I moved to America, I met artists who showed a greater interest in Japanese tradition than many of the Japanese people living in Japan. By way of my paintings I work to understand these trends and preserve my own cultural values, generating works that hint at a placing Japanese folklore in a modern context. In 2015, I created a system I call Color Knitting. Working with this system has helped me to understand what it means to be a Japanese person living in this contemporary world. My artwork strives to combine images specific to traditional Japanese culture while simultaneously references tropes recognizable to the world at large. To make my Color Knitting Painting series, I create patterns with paint inspired by Japanese fabrics and baskets by cross-hatching color. My color palette for this series has drawn exclusively from the colors of a toy I bought at ToysRUs. Although purchased in America, these colors remain “American” and can be seen universally in all westernized societies. The compositions for my series of system paintings are developed entirely through Chigirie, a Japanese traditional paper collage method, achieved through the tarring and gluing of colored paper to form arrangements. Additionally, the square format of my canvases are derived from the shape of origami paper. Within my paintings, I also maintain a hand-painted quality and slight irregularities/fluctuations in line to allow for a sense of what the Japanese call Wabisabi, meaning the beauty of impermanence and the balance of perfection and imperfection. As a Japanese painter, my work seeks to understand how Asian artistic values can contribute to the greater world of art. I have focused on painting since I was an art student in Japan. However, I was always asked by my instructors to quit painting and peruse other means of art making. This is because many of my professors had accepted the concept of “the death of painting,” an issue that has been explored in Western art history since the emergence of photography. I also believe the idea of “the death of painting” has come to marginalize other ideas regarding painting in non-Western art, and if I follow this idea, this means I, an Asian artist who accepts the ethnocentrism or imperialism of Western art as we Asian artists never “kill painting”. This concept fuels my work and understanding of myself as a contemporary Japanese painter and my pursuit of a crossroads between Western art and Japanese/Asian culture that corresponds with the greater history of painting all around the world. Moreover, As a Japanese painter, I work to neutralize Western ideas of art within Asian cultural values. Simultaneously I work to engage and thus containing Asian cultural values in my paintings. I consider two-dimensional artwork as one of the primary human activities like cooking, hunting, telling a lie, this is why my work aims to make the themes of painting assessable to people of all cultural backgrounds.
Kazutaka Hirota was born in Japan as a descendant of Korean immigrants and has lived in the United States since 2011. He studies painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography at Nagoya Sogo Design College in Japan for 3 years and joined The Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fine Arts program of Maryland Institute College of Art in 2015. He is now planning to continue studying two-dimensional expression at LeRoy Hoffberger School of Painting in 2016 and work as an artist in the US. His art works are influenced by the 20th century’s Modern Art, especially Orphism and Russian Avant-Garde, and American Abstract Expressionism. His artistic concept is to work on the greatest common measure between the western art and Asian culture and to display the function of art for humans and the society.