Spatial relations: Jiro Takamatsu at Stephen Friedman Gallery

Spatial relations: Jiro Takamatsu at Stephen Friedman Gallery

Amidst the all the clamour and fluster of Frieze week, London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery opened a quietly wonderful show dedicated to Japanese artist Jiro Takamatsu.

Takamatsu died in 1998, aged just 62. He had been a key figure in the Japanese art world since the early 1960s when he co-founded the Hi Red Center with Genpei Akasegawa and Natsuyuki Nakanishi. The trio made a name for themselves cleaning the Tokyo streets with toothbrushes, an absurdist dig at the city’s clean up operation in preparation for the 1964 Olympics. Four years later he represented Japan at the Venice Biennale and hooked up with the Mono-ha group who were a little bit op art and a little bit minimalist but not truly either (Takamatsu doesn’t colour between the lines for one thing).

Most of the works at the Friedman show are from the decade between 1973 and 1983, mostly on paper and in pencil, gouache and pastel. Explorations of form, colour and spatial relations, they have a sketchy energy and internal tension. Also included are a series of sculptures and maquettes in iron and wood, of similar intent.

The exhibition also gives over a second gallery entirely to one of Takamatsu’s shadow paintings, set against the furniture and design objects of Shiro Kuramata, including his ’Glass Chair’ and ’Cabinet de Curiositè’. Almost exact contemporaries, the pair collaborated on the Cazador Supper Club in Tokyo in 1967 and the room tries to capture something of that space, sadly long gone. 

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