Hawaiian-born, New York-based contemporary artist Robert Yasuda renders bold, often unconventional shapes in iridescent acrylic paintings.Read More
Robert Yasuda was born in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii in 1940. He grew up in the Hawaiian countryside before moving to Honolulu as a teenager. Having access to museums and other cultural institutions inspired Yasuda to become an artist.
Yasuda relocated to New York City in 1958 to study at the Pratt Institute. After completing his BFA in 1962, Yasuda travelled to Europe on a Whitney Foundation grant to learn about the history of Western painting. Upon his return, he completed an MFA at Pratt in 1964. Yasuda then went on to teach alongside his prolific practice, spending over three decades as Professor of Painting and Drawing at Long Island University.
In his career, spanning six-decades and counting, Yasuda has been an integral part of the New York art scene, splitting his time between New York City and Sugarloaf Key, Florida. Nevertheless, his Hawaiian upbringing has continually influenced his practice.
Robert Yasuda's earliest works were experiments in abstract oil painting, kick-starting his career with his first solo exhibitions at art dealer Bruno Bischofberger's galleries in Zurich and St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1968 and 1969.
Moving into a Soho factory loft studio in the early 1970s allowed Yasuda to focus on light and perception in his paintings. He shifted from oil painting to working with acrylic on sheer fabric on wood, his medium of choice ever since. Yasuda's work starts by shaping and sanding wooden boards, skills he learned from working on wooden surfboards. He describes his work as sculptural or architectural, often creating custom shapes. His later work also includes multi-panel paintings, always constructed by hand.
Yasuda's poetic paintings can be described as minimalist, while also taking influence from nature, his childhood in Hawaii and Buddhism. His colourful works have a transcendent, almost shimmering quality to their surface, continually changing with any natural light in the spaces they are shown and with the varied perspective of the viewer.
Yasuda's paintings frequently take the form of large-scale, site-specific installations. One of the most notable examples is Across the River (2016) at MoMA PS1 for FORTY, which brought together artists like Yasuda who had participated in the museum's inaugural exhibition Rooms in 1976 for its 40th anniversary. Like his 1970s work, Across the River featured an oversized, freestanding canvas, its iridescent surface of layered, translucent pigments leaning toward the viewer.
Robert Yasuda's work is held in many prominent collections across the United States including the Bass Museum, Miami Beach, Florida; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; The New York Public Library, New York; The State Foundation for the Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii; The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut.
Robert Yasuda's practice has been recognised many times throughout his career including with the American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Award (2016 and 2008); National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Fellowship Grant—Painting (1981); and John Hay Whitney Foundation Grant (1962).
Robert Yasuda has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include: Transparent and Translucent, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York (2023); Transparent and Translucent, David Lusk Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee (2022); and Translucent and Transparent, Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn, New York (2022).
Group exhibitions include: FORTY, MoMA PS1, New York (2016); NEW NEW YORK: Abstract Painting in the 21st Century, The Art Gallery at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu (2015); and Frontiers Reimagined, Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice, Italy (2015).
Articles on Robert Yasuda have been published in various publications, including The New Yorker, ARTnews, and Art in America.
Rachel Kubrick | Ocula | 2023