b. 1963, Japan

Hakamata Kyotaro Biography

Born in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan in 1963. Kyoto Hakamata graduated from Musashino Art University’s Faculty of Sculpture. He went on to study in Philadelphia under the Japanese government’s Overseas Study Program for Artists.

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Hakamata’s sculptures, fashioned out of less conventional sculpting materials like wire and acrylic, hold a distinctly contemporary sensibility. However, he also incorporates traditional techniques into his work, such as layering flat plates to create upright figures—the same method used to create the historical Buddha statue in Nara, Japan. Hakamata’s work seems to be an ongoing conversation between tradition and innovation. The artist relentlessly pursues the craft, constantly asking himself: “what is sculpture?”

His recent works use acrylic plaques in vivid colors cut and stacked on top of each other to create striped figures resembling people, animals, and objects. His Bear and Infant (2012) are examples of such simple subjects that are complicated by the bright bands of colors, which disturb the viewer’s ability to recognise easily what the artwork represents. With its clashing vibrant colors and solid acrylic plates obscuring the contours and surfaces of his sculptures, Hakamata’s works almost defy the art of sculpting.

The artist plays on ambiguity to stimulate his audience’s imagination, but he also takes advantage of this uncertainty in his process of artistic creation as well. Instead of setting forth with clear visions of finished work, he relies on his imagination, developing his work as he sculpts. Hakamata insists that working in a state of uncertainty and insecurity pushes his creativity.

Such creativity is evident in the ingenious works he creates based on ubiquitous themes. In his 2007 series Families, Hakamata took on the eponymous and quintessential artist’s subject, creating sculptures based on his own family. The numerous statues in a variety of colors and sizes scattered around white cube spaces (all of the figures facing towards the wall), however, were nothing like a regular family portrait. He is also known for creating sculptures of ears, which is another prevalent theme in the arts. The Smoke of Ryu’s Ear (リュウの耳の煙) (2006), again, is not simply a body part, but a large multi-hued ear that seems to be growing out of a tiny chimney. Hakamata considers these overused subjects “readymades,” in the sense that they are thematically established. By embracing such conventional topics, he explores new depths of sculpture, both aesthetically and conceptually.

Hakamata’s solo exhibitions include Human, Smoke, etc. at the Hiratsuka City of Art, Japan (2014); Shizuoka Project 1. Kyotaro Hakamata solo exhibition at Shizuoka City Museum of Art, Japan (2011), and the Open Studio Program at Fuchu Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2008–2009). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including MINIMAL | POST MINIMAL ¬– The Contemporary Japanese Art from 1970s at Utsunomiya Museum of Art, Utsunomiya, Japan (2013); ROKKO MEETS ART 2013 in Kobe, Japan (2013); VOCA ’98 – The Vision of Contemporary Art at the Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan; and Triangle Artists’ Workshop École superieure des Beaux-Arts, Marseille, France (1995). His work is also part of the public collections of Utsunomiya Museum of Art in Utsunomiya, Japan; Saku Municipal Museum of Modern Art in Saku City, Japan; and the Yokohama Museum of Art in Yokohama, Japan.

Text by Makiko Arima

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