The first Italian exhibition of Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura arrives in Milan

Titled "Before the Thunder, After the Dark," it is the first solo exhibition in Italy by Japanese Leiko Ikemura, a longtime European resident and a major player in contemporary art between Asia and Europe. It is being held at the Building gallery in Milan.

In Milan, at the Building gallery spaces, comes the first Italian solo exhibition of Japanese artist, naturalized Swiss, Leiko Ikemura (Tsu, 1951): titled Before the Thunder, After the Dark, it runs from September 4 to December 23, 2021, and is curated by Frank Boehm. The exhibition offers a broad overview of Ikemura’s artistic research, bringing together a selection of 50 works made from the 1980s to the present. Spanning four floors, the exhibition project presents some significant historical productions alongside more recent works. These include a glass sculpture, created through collaboration with some of Venice’s most important craftsmen.

Leiko Ikemura’s work is characterized by a complex and highly expressive visual language. In her works, at first predominantly figurative, then increasingly tending toward the abstract, the artist focuses on the human figure and its position within the cosmos. Female figures, typical of his production, are mostly shown free of any spatial environment, contextualized within ethereal landscapes, more emotional than physical. These figures are the protagonists of a timeless painting, an expression of a personal representation of the contemporary existential condition. Observing them is an intimate experience, conveying a growing unfulfilled desire for completeness.

Leiko Ikemura’s expressive universe ranges from drawing to watercolor, from painting to photography, to sculpture, made in ceramic, terracotta, bronze and, more recently, glass. The individual works have great autonomy and intensity, found even in the smaller sized formats, but with a strong presence. Through the rooms of Building, the exhibition unfolds in thematic groups that trace the development of the artist’s visual vocabulary, starting with the large-format charcoal drawings of the 1980s, shown here for the first time, and moving through the delicate, nuanced tones of the works of the 1990s to the intense colors of the more recent canvases.

Ikemura, who now lives and works between Berlin and Cologne, moved to Europe in 1973, where she studied art at the University of Seville. For several years she lived in Switzerland, where she developed her expressive drawings and large-format paintings in the early 1980s. She received the “Stadtzeichnerin von Nürnberg” artists’ fellowship in 1983 from Faber-Castell and the city of Nuremberg. In 1985 she moved first to Cologne and then to Berlin, where she became a professor at the Universität der Künste in 1991. In the mid-1990s she became known for the figures of girls depicted in her paintings, drawings and sculptures. In recent decades Leiko Ikemura has focused on landscapes, both monumental and cosmic, which speak of change as a metaphysical principle and which draw on cultural references from Europe but also from her native Japan. In her works, among the various themes she addresses, she expresses her concern for our planet: humans and nature merge, the head-shaped sculptures are hybrid creatures with a human face and small trees instead of ears. Currently, a solo exhibition Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland is being held at the Sainsbury Center in London, open until December 2021. An extensive retrospective exhibition has been dedicated to her in 2019 at the National Art Center in Tokyo and the Kunstmuseum in Basel. Some of her most important solo exhibitions are: Leiko Ikemura. Poetics of Form at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, 2016; Leiko Ikemura. All about Girls and Tigers, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne, 2015; Leiko Ikemura: Transfiguration, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 2011. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia.

Image: Leiko Ikemura, Standing in a Pink Skirt (1994; glazed earthenware, 49.5 x 25 x 25 cm)

The first Italian exhibition of Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura arrives in Milan
The first Italian exhibition of Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura arrives in Milan

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