Flying on Black, 1998-99, Toyota Municipal Museum of Art photo: Hayashi Tatsuo

From August 23 to October 23, 2011 – The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

A woman floats up from the canvas ground. A person is depicted with a cabbage head. A hollow girl has no legs. A monster-like face suddenly emerges out of the rocks.
The somewhat mysterious figures that Leiko Ikemura creates stem from her interest in “transfigurations” such as being and nothingness; the evolutionary relationship between animals and people; unspoiled nature and human civilization. Ikemura considers changes that are apt to be seen as a one-way transition from A to B as complementary, able to move back and forth, meandering, and endless, and this is what she expresses in her work.

Ikemura also has a desire to make work that is ecological. The size of her paintings corresponds to that of the human body. For her sculptures, Ikemura chooses clay that can easily be returned to the earth, and in her drawings, she uses simple materials like charcoal and paper. In this approach, one detects Ikemura’s distinct way of thinking, which is based on practical notions of what it means to be an artist making things in the current era.

In Ikemura’s work, one senses a philosophy in the poetry, and an emotional strength in the silence. There is also a depth that appears to be flat. Her work, which gently embraces conflicting qualities, gives us a profound sense of the “transfigurations” that are necessary for us to consider at this point in time.

This exhibition, the first full-fledged retrospective of Leiko Ikemura’s career to be held in Japan, comprises some 145 paintings, sculptures, and drawings presented in a space designed by an architect. Over half of the works arrive directly from the artist’s atelier (i.e., they will be shown for the first time in Japan), and the exhibition will also feature new works.

Born in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, Ikemura moved to Spain in 1973. There, she studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Isabel of Hungary of Sevilla. She then moved to Switzerland before eventually settling in Germany. Currently based in Berlin and Cologne, she also works as a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts. Major solo exhibitions of her work have been held at the Bonner Kunstverein (Germany) in 1983, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Basel in 1987-88, the Haggerty Museum of Art (Milwaukee, USA) in 1999, the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in 2000, the Cantonal Museum of Fine Art, Lausanne (Switzerland) in 2001, the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein in 2002, the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen (Germany) in 2004, the Kolumba Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne in 2005, the Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum (Mishima, Japan) in 2006, the Museum zu Allerheiligen Schaffhausen (Switzerland) in 2008, and the Sauerland-Museum (Arnsberg, Germany) in 2010

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