Engravings and sculptures experiments, Tomie Ohtake Institute

In more than 60 years of production, Tomie Ohtake conceived a remarkable set of works and ventured through different languages, without leaving the main axes that guided his research: color, gesture and materiality. Tomie Ohtake: engravings and sculptures experiments, focuses on printmaking and sculpture, areas that, alongside painting, are equally vast in production of the artist.

Tomie Ohtake is known for her work, of an apparent minimalism that dissolves at second sight, revealing itself to be both complex and delicate. Her work, of an apparent minimalism that is undone at second sight, revealing herself, the complex and delicate at the same timeHer creative production moves forward, against time.

The fluidity with which she transposed the traces and movements of the painting, so particularly her own, to these new materials – more rigid and with other limits, stands out. Gesture is present in these practices, whether in the curves and twists of the steel tubes that seem to have been molded by Tomie’s own hands, or in the imprecision of the forms present in the engravings, taken with fidelity from studies carried out by the artist tearing and cutting papers, making clear its commitment to carrying out the work.

The engraving in the artist’s work appeared fifteen years after she was already recognized as a Brazilian painter. Initially his prints were in silkscreen, with surfaces coated with colors, until he came to the construction of broken, wavy, fading plans. Gradually, the artist developed new media, lithography, with different possibilities, such as drawings made in pencil. However, it was in the metal engraving that he found the same freedom as the brush and with which he continued to work.

The engravings present in this exhibition show how Tomie made this technique a fertile and innovative field. He created series in large formats, transformed the print into an object, produced works that advance from one plane to the other (at the confluence of 90 degrees) and even worked with four hands in the composition of the album Yu-Gen, a series inspired by Japan, with poems by Haroldo de Campos inscribed on images created by the artist. With her unusual experimentalism, her engravings have also gained international recognition since 1972, when she was invited to participate in the Grafica D’Oggi room at the Venice Biennale – an exhibition attended by the most important artists in the world, such as the Americans of Pop Art.

The sculpture in Tomie’s work, on the other hand, appears from 1996, when she was invited by the Bienal de São Paulo to participate with a special room. For the international event, she designed a series of tubular steel pieces, floating lines that, instead of imposing a volume, highlight the void. From this series, four of the sculptures gathered in Tomie Ohtake unfold: engraved colors, lines in space, while the set of three circular rings, also present in the exhibition, was part of his first installation, carried out at the invitation of Paço das Artes, in 2000. With approximately four meters in diameter, with different and wavy shapes that reach up to 1.50 m in height, the hoops make a pendular movement when touched, allowing the viewer to move the pieces.

Tomie Ohtake (Kyoto, 21 of November of 1913 – São Paulo, 12 of February of 2015) was one artist Japanese naturalized Brazilian.

Tomie Ohtake is one of the main representatives of informal abstractionism. His work includes paintings, prints and sculptures. She was awarded at the National Salon of Modern Art in 1960; and in 1988, she was blessed with the Order of Rio Branco for the public sculpture commemorating the 80th anniversary of Japanese immigration in São Paulo.

For her renowned career, Tomie Ohtake is considered the “lady of the Brazilian plastic arts”. Artists such as Tomie Ohtake, Tikashi Fukushima, Manabu Mabe and others are recognized abstractionists, representative of Brazil, who have many supporters.

The works
The vast work of Tomie Ohtake is crossed by a constant and assiduous search for synthesis. Whether it be conquered by the economy of simple shapes broken in refined and concise compositions, or by the balance between the free use of abstract forms, gestural impulse and meticulous care in the disposal of these elements. The fact is that the work of the artist develops the threshold between intention and action, rationality and sensuousness, in an impregnated matrix of aspects of Western painting that refer to the Japanese tradition. In her synthetic speech and in her quiet personality, Tomie Ohtake always made sure to point out the need not to title of her works: name them would restrict the possibility of interpretations. The artist broke away from the explicit figuration of the first studies and immersed herself in abstract exploration made without a ruler and compass – not figurative free forms that do not fail to evoke water surfaces, lights, stars, cosmos images, depending on the observer’s imagination.

Therefore, she used resources and various techniques that were able to raise the most varied readings. Transited between these ways of doing inventive ways: painted blindfolded; transposes prints patterns and textures drawn from images in magazines; She perfected her gesture in a way that her paintings, sculptures and graphic productions have the same delicacy and fluidity in the forms; she took advantage of the potential of each support, using bold and lush chromatic palettes each.

At Home, In The Ateliê
The home environment for Tomie Ohtake played major role in her life and work. The artist, who started producing in the 1950s, about to turn 40 years old, lived with her two children in a small house in the Mooca neighborhood in São Paulo. There, in a cramped space, she made her first works, passed from figuration to abstraction, and made some of the most important collections of works of her career, even with some limitations such as the need to have to go to the outside to power plainly what was painting with a retreat.

In the 1970s, after moving to a new residence, the artist won greater freedom to produce. The space was no longer a constraint and larger formats and different techniques might be exploited as their creative impulses. Conceived by her son Ruy Ohtake, the house is designed to be configured as a large continuous environment in which the compact rooms designed as cells could be distributed freely. Their supporting structures, supported the side walls, leaving the clearance center as a wide corridor in which, from the gateway, you can view all built extension. However, after some renovations, other areas were attached, including a new studio that allowed new experiments and also included previous works and documents, stored in a technical reserve. It was in this large environment that Tomie Ohtake develop her work, spent time with her family and received friends, artists, critics, curators and journalists, creating a distinct network of relationships and collaborations. Her figure and her home are part of the memories of many generations of Brazilian art as synonymous with generosity and perseverance.

First Years
From 1952, Tomie Ohtake joined painting classes. Unassuming at first learned the craft and techniques with Professor Keisuke Sugano, who encouraged the pictorial production, initially figurative. Landscapes, what she saw through her window, objects of her home and pictures appear in this first moment of the artist’s production. However, it is possible to see that the tangled trunks and branches, clusters of homes, among other figures, are gradually becoming less recognizable, by diluting to form increasingly geometrical compositions.

Blind Paintings
In addition to the shapes and colors, the question of the senses was also on the agenda of the work of Tomie Ohtake. Between 1959 and 1962, the artist made a series of paintings blindfolded, set that became known as “Blind Paintings” title given by curator Paulo Herkenhoff. From this procedure, the artist presented a discussion about art and blindness establishing a dialogue with the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty through the perception of the world by passing to the senses, that is exactly what is to deprive yourself of vision during the painting process. However, although they deal with the chance, they are not fully made blindly: there was, by the artist, a prior choice of colors and a determined path to be traced. Predominant colors in these works as white, black, gray and brown.

Processo Construtivo
Since the mid 1960s, Tomie Ohtake withdrew from Brazilian and Japanese magazines references used to elaborate collages. These, in turn, worked almost as a prototype for paintings and engravings. This feature was used to define the color fields near geometric shapes rendered inaccurate by the effect of the tears made by hand on paper, or by textures, grooves and burrs resulting from manualidade this method. Even brands and more subtle stains present in collages often been implemented faithfully in her paintings and engravings.

Already in the 1970s and 1980s, is evident in her studies a greater definition in the contour shapes. This stems from the use of scissors to make cuts papers. Studies and thus works become more regular. Even so, scissors do not have the precision of a compass and ruler – instruments Tomie Ohtake used – therefore kept open the possibility of occurrence of gestural deviations from the straightness of geometric shapes. Over the years these projects became scarcer, noticeable also by the more fluid compositions, more organic brushstrokes and more pliable as the structure. However, recurrent studies were carried out for exhibitions and s type of cataloging that the artist herself sketched, with information on loans, sales or that were being displayed.

Geometric Shapes
“Unlike the rationalism of Western geometry, Ohtake incessantly experiences imprecision”

Cosmic Tomie
Tomie Ohtake was an artist who explored geometry. Not affiliated with any movement that pervaded – as is the case of Concretism and Neoconcretism, for example – the artist brought her own language and ways of doing guided by abstraction, color application, preparation of textures and expressive gestures. In the 2000s, it is noted in the artist’s production a recurrence of circular shape. Organic shapes, bright and curvilinear raise interpretations related to the cosmos: incandescent balls which in turn resemble galaxies, black holes, eclipses, planets or appear in pairs, suggesting waves, radiations. However, while her paintings allow a telescopic reading it is also possible to believe that the constructed images come from the lens of a microscope. The circle can also be read by aspects of Japanese Zen,demonstrating its rhythmic power, the idea of cycles and inspire a certain silence, as a large solitary curve on a monochrome background.

Since the early 1960s, Tomie Ohtake made studies from cut paper found in magazines. With engraving, she began her experience with silkscreen printing process that allowed the artist to transpose the fluidity of his gesture to represent print shop. In the early 1970, Tomie Ohtake entered world of lithography. This part of her production stands out for its use of color so vibrant and also by unusual combinations that the artist created it They differ from those of his pictorial production. The lithograph of Tomie takes advantage of all the graphic repertoire available in this technique. Their possibilities of reproduction and working together with a technical expert allowed her to – create compositional solutions such as chromatic preparation and the overlay of forms.

100 – 101
In her last two years of life, Tomie Ohtake had a powerful production and large-scale. Built work resulting from the dramatic reduction of chromatic variation, creating bright and radiant monochromes in white, red, yellow and blue. Its lines and shapes are outlined by reliefs, thick layers of accumulated paint the point of making the screen background a topography full of accidents and discontinuities.

Public Works
From the 1980s, Tomie Ohtake brought to the public spaces and areas of coexistence forms, which refer to the pictorial elements of her plastic production. In places of living within several cities, such forms are converted into kilos or tons of iron, concrete, steel, glass pellets or whatever is needed; such volumes that can achieve monumental scale, never appear to have the weight that actually have.

One of her first public works, that no longer existents but which generated various debates, was the floating star she designed for Rio de Janeiro in 1985. She built a metal piece, that stood out over the water with sunshine and was made in the same space and with the same infrastructure used to maintain ships. One of her works of great public recognition, made in commemoration of the 80 years of Japanese immigration in Brazil in 1988, she represented the generations of Japanese who were here (issei, nissei, sansei, yonsei) by four arches – or curves / Waves – of Avenida 23 de Maio. Twenty years later, she returned to celebrate immigration, this time in its centenary with a circular piece arranged in one of the access roads to the Guarulhos International Airport.

In 1997, she conceived his first three-dimensional work to integrate a building. Located in the complex of the Aché Laboratory – whose architectural design is authored by Ruy Ohtake, her son – the work, supported by a single point, works as a Moebius tape, a geometric shape in which it is not possible to distinguish sides inside and outside, Resembling the infinity symbol by its always continuous movement. Prior to this, Tomie Ohtake had already collaborated with architecture in the realization of panels, murals and paintings that relate to the projected spaces.

The artist’s work procedure, when she set out to act on the architectural scale, began with the creation of sketches, collages, and quick mock-ups, often hand-made without compromising her strength. Then her imaginative models were made possible by collaboration with technicians and engineers, who employed sophisticated methods to translate their delicate forms into monumental sculptures.

Tomie Ohtake Institute
Instituto Tomie Ohtake, opened since 28 November 2001, is one of the few spaces in São Paulo to have been designed with the specific purpose of staging national and international art, architecture and design exhibitions.

Honoring the artist it was named after, the Institute is home to exhibitions that shine a light on artistic developments over the past six decades, as well as on earlier artistic movements that contribute to a better understanding of the period in which Tomie Ohtake lived and worked. Since opening its doors to the public, the Institute has staged shows previously unheard of in Brazil, including Louise Bourgeois, Josef Albers, Yayoi Kusama, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró, among others.

As well as its trailblazing exhibition program – amplified through a parallel program of debates, research, content production, archival work and publications – Instituto Tomie Ohtake has, since its founding, conducted significant research on approaches to teaching contemporary art. This is manifested in pioneering new training methods for teachers and students in public and private schools, a program of events open to all, and projects designed to encourage new generations of artists to develop and thrive.