Born in 1913 in Kyoto, Japan, Tomie Ohtake embarked on an artistic career late in life in 1951, after settling in São Paulo in 1936. Having originally travelled to Brazil to visit her brother, Ohtake discovered it was unsafe to return to Japan, due to the onset of World War II.
Working in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, print, and works on paper, Ohtake established herself as a representative for informal abstract art in Brazil. She explored and experimented with colour, form, and texture through paintings of abstract curvilinear forms. Created through methodical repetition and precision, her fluid lines and shapes recall Japanese tradition. Her works are a continuous investigation into colour, texture, and form, from more subtle tones to bright, vibrant colours. These were enthusiastically received by Brazilian audiences.
Ohtake added sculpture to her practice during the 1970s and undertook a number of public commissions, many of which reside in São Paulo and are defining features of the cityscape. Recalling the same elements of colour, form, and depth that are explored in her paintings, Ohtake’s sculptures extend her two-dimensional works on a much larger scale.
Ohtake was the recipient of the Order of Rio Branco in 1988 for her sculpture commemorating the eightieth anniversary of Japanese immigration to São Paulo. In 2006, she was awarded the Brazilian Order of Cultural Merit. Ohtake featured in over twenty international Biennials over the course of her career. Most recently she was the focus of a solo exhibition Tomie Ohtake at Tina Kim Gallery, New York (2016); and had work shown in the group exhibition Inaugural Collective Exhibition at Galeria Nara Roesler, New York (2016).
Tomie Ohtake died in 2015 at the age of 101. The Instituto Tomie Ohtake, founded in 2001 by Ohtake’s son Ruy Ohtake, is a non-profit organisation that holds exhibitions of works by local contemporary artists.
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