Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Osamu Kobayashi

These are Osamu's newest paintings. He explained how his process has evolved from a series of premeditated, deliberated moves into a more fluid and improvised approach. Osamu begins his paintings with no predetermined plan, his paintings develop out of a succession of impromptu interactions between the paint and the forms on canvas. Through this highly personalized and intuitive approach, a record of time emerges.

What interests me most about Osamu's paintings is how two conceptions of time manifest; Osamu accesses the universal through the personal. (*Fear not gentle reader, when referring to the universal,  I am not attempting to push some silly, outmoded and spurious meta-narrative on you, I embrace postmodern dogma fully and unabashedly. When I refer to the universal, I am referring to an idea of time that goes beyond the limitations of human bias and understanding.) The forms in Osamu's often operate like afterimages, optically altering any constancy and undermining any supposedly complete explanation. Within the absence of delineation, time operates like memory; past and present overlap resisting any neat division. This occurs especially in the two large paintings Osamu is standing in between in the previous photograph as well as the painting pictured above on the left.
These grey paintings employ a different language than the previous body of work. In their physicality, they become less experiential and more concrete. 

 Looking at this series, Jasper Johns, the great grandaddy of grey paintings comes to mind. The Johns' grey paintings show at the Art Institute was a fantastic show. What I loved about that show was that Jasper Johns managed to turn painting into a philosophical pursuit removed from its solipsistic, self-congratulatory history. Johns grey paintings are a battleground for espousing Buddhist beliefs in a historically myopic, Occidental medium. There is a violence in many of Johns' grey paintings that belies their introspective calm.Osamu's grey paintings contain within them more of a self-consciousness specific to our generation of painters, and have a quiet, contemplative quality that I respond to. They are also frangible despite their thickness, which is also a reflection of the current milieu.
This is an especially gorgeous painting in person. I associate black monochromatic paintings with a somber Thanatos that resists the vitality of bright, expressive color. Some of my favorite paintings are black paintings. The allure of the color black has seduced artists as diverse as Goya, Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, and Ellen Gallagher, to name a few. Goya's famous Black paintings are one of the most haunting and psychologically intense ruminations on the human condition. Goya painted them toward the end of his life when he was completely deaf and confronting his own mortality. They contain within them an understanding of the inexorable brutalities of life that most of us would prefer to avoid, but that also paradoxically offer us solace in their maniacal brand of satire.  Laughter always provides us with the greatest form of release. It was Lao Tzu who said, "As soon as you have made a thoughtLaugh at it."


  1. Great images and a serious reading of the work.
    Can't ask for more than that. I admire Osamu's work and am glad you posted this visit.



  2. Looks like some good paintings there. Maybe someday I'll get to see them in person.