Blum and Poe Gallery

Tokyo, Japan
"Systemic Paper, Kwon Young-woo, Rakuko Naito, and Dorothea Rockburne."
April 15 – June 17, 2017

Blum and Poe Gallery

Blum & Poe is pleased to present Systemic Paper, an exhibition of Kwon Young-woo, Rakuko Naito, and Dorothea Rockburne—three artists who have methodically explored the material properties of paper.

Kwon, Naito, and Rockburne began their careers in the 1960s when minimalist and systemic practices in all media were at their height. In 1966, the influential critic Laurence Alloway organized Systemic Painting, a landmark survey of geometric abstraction, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. While the exhibited artworks were simple, methodical explorations of repetition and pattern, Alloway’s definition of “systemic” practice was expansive—encompassing shaped canvases, Color Field and Hard Edge. Nevertheless, the term was rooted in the medium of painting, and in an American context. Few contemporary artists have prioritized paper not merely as a ground for painting or drawing but as an active material in its own right; fewer still have approached it from a systemic, modular, or mathematical perspective.

Kwon Young-woo was one of the founding figures of Dansaekhwa, the Korean monochrome painting movement of the 1970s. Schooled in ink-painting traditions, Kwon forged a new direction in the 1960s by abandoning the use of ink and scratching the surface of the delicate, multilayered hanji paper with his fingernails. Leaving his works untitled or assigning them ordinal numbers that referred to their order of creation within a given year, Kwon quietly persisted with an iterative, serial practice. Systemic Paper features work from the 1980s, in which the artist created a diverse array of compositions made from rips, slices, and perforations. These unique works are a compelling interplay of order, precision, and disintegration.

Rakuko Naito studied nihonga—traditional Japanese painting—at the Tokyo National University of Art. After graduating in 1958 she moved to New York, where she currently lives and works. Her early acrylic paintings were geometric and Op compositions that emphasized flatness and avoided any trace of the artist’s hand. Her interest in geometry carried over into paper: she sees the natural forms and textures of the material as having a reality that transcends the limits of painting and drawing. Since the 1990s she has explored the texture, pliability, and strength of Japanese kozo washi. This exhibition features varied examples of these sequentially-titled assemblages, which are composed of folded, layered, and rolled strips of paper that build up into grids, stacks, and swirls. Many of Naito’s works are made in a square format for modular display; in addition to those that are hung vertically on the wall, one is mounted horizontally on a plinth, adding a sculptural dimension to the exhibition.

Dorothea Rockburne studied at the renowned Black Mountain College, Asheville, North Carolina, from 1950 to 1952. There she was deeply influenced by the teachings of German mathematician Max Dehn, who introduced her to topology, the ubiquity of geometry in nature, and the concepts of harmonic intervals. Since the beginning of her career, Rockburne’s work has reflected a profound interest in the intersection of art, mathematics, science, and philosophy—in particular the Golden Mean, set theory, astronomy, cosmology, and the Egyptian use of proportion and light. She has produced various series of monochromatic works that reveal the processes by which they were made; she cuts, marks, and folds her materials, which include carbon paper, metal, canvas, and chipboard. This exhibition features Locus I–VI (1972), a suite of six sheets of paper that Rockburne folded and ran through a printing press to create embossed lines, subsequently printing aquatint onto the topmost portions of the folded paper. The intersecting creases rotate 180 degrees clockwise across the six sheets.

Photo: Dorothea Rockburne, "Locus" I–VI, 1972