Aki Kuroda completed his first oil painting at the age of four. He was born in Kyoto in 1944 and was raised in an environment that placed a high value on art. A near relative of Kuroda’s was one of the first cubist painters in Japan. When he was young, Kuroda’s father who was a professor of economics would bring him avant-garde magazines from France. Kuroda devoured these magazines which left a lasting impression on him.
In the 1960s, Kuroda moved to Paris to take an art history course. He traveled elsewhere in Europe and to the United States, but Paris drew him back in 1970 and he has been living and working there ever since.
During his early years in Paris, Kuroda worked as an underpaid assistant to a sculptor and was struggling to make ends meet. At one point he considered giving up and returning to Kyoto. Through chance encounters, however, he met the gallery owner Adrien Maeght, the writer and film director Marguerite Duras and the great Spanish painter, and sculptor Joan Miro – all of whom were intrigued by the work of the young Japanese artist and lent much-needed encouragement. Soon it was clear he belonged in Paris.
As a Japanese artist living in Europe, Kuroda naturally invites the critical attention of those who look for some interaction of East and West in his work. For his part, Kuroda is aware, of course, of this confluence while recognizing that the relationship between the two is anything but simple. Some characteristics of Kuroda’s art would seem to point to a heightening of the European influence over time.
Kuroda’s work demonstrates the long-term development of particular ideas. Certain motifs, figures and wording – a white statuesque human figure, a minotaur, such inscriptions on the paintings as “noise” and “garden” – appear in different works at different periods, as if each represents one stage in the exploration of those notions.
Throughout all Kuroda’s work, there is quite clearly a strong sense of tension. His canvases are not immobile expanses of paint, but the dynamic intersections where different dimensions converge. “I see my paintings as a kind of passage between many worlds”, he notes. “And because these different worlds overlap, that does indeed create total commotion in what I do. But I would argue that such commotion is in fact precisely the point of my work.”More