Simon Lee Gallery New York is proud to present the first solo exhibition in America of Japanese artist Ryuji Tanaka. A recognized member of two avant-garde groups that are synonymous with post-war Japanese art: the Pan-real Art Association and Gutai Art Association, Tanaka’s legacy lies in his desire to evolve a unique artistic style that is at once experimental, and yet deeply rooted in the traditional Japanese-style painting - nihon-ga.
Spanning work made between the 1960s and 1990s, this concise survey traces the evolution of Tanaka’s style from his dark and intense early paintings, which demonstrate abstract experiments with nihon-ga materials, to the refinement of his later works that display a fresh and profound lyricism through the use of color.
Like many artists of the time, Tanaka studied nihon-ga painting at the Kyoto Municipal School of Painting where he became deeply committed to traditional materials: mineral pigments, sumi (Chinese ink) made from soot mixed with glue, washi (Japanese paper) and silk. Upon graduating in 1948, Tanaka together with a number of friends who also majored in nihon-ga, founded the avant-garde group Pan-real. The group was established to challenge and revolutionize the conservative nihon-ga, searching for freer structures and new forms of expression.