Renowned for his paintings, drawings, and prints, as well as his innovative architectural constructions, Arakawa was one of the earliest practitioners of the international conceptual art movement of the 1960s. After moving to New York from Japan in 1961, he produced diagrammatic paintings, drawings, and other conceptual works that employed systems of words and signs to both highlight and investigate the mechanics of human perception and knowledge. In 1962 Arakawa met the American poet Madeline Gins, with whom he developed a personal and creative partnership. Together they expanded Arakawa’s painting practice into an important series entitled The Mechanism of Meaning, a suite of eighty canvases that explored the workings of human consciousness. The Mechanism of Meaning exists in two versions, exhibited in their entirety by the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa, Japan, in 1988 and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1997. In the 1990s Arakawa and Gins developed the theory of “procedural architecture” which proposes using the built form as a way to investigate and transform the relationship between body and environment. Through architecture specifically, they endeavored to “learn how not to die.” Terming this concept “reversible destiny,” they believed firmly in the capacity of their architectural works to positively influence the personal well-being and longevity of those who lived within them. Arakawa and Gins dedicated the remainder of their lives to seeing these ideas integrated into architectural theory and contemporary building design.
Arakawa was born in 1936 in Nagoya, Japan, and died in 2010 in New York. He attended the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. His work has been exhibited extensively throughout North America, Western Europe, and Japan. Major retrospectives include Constructing the Perceiver—Arakawa: Experimental Works, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (1991), and Reversible Destiny— Arakawa/Gins, Guggenheim Museum, New York (1997). His work is featured in institutional collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa, Japan; and National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, as well as in numerous private and corporate collections. Arakawa represented Japan in the 35th Biennale di Venezia, Venice in 1970 and was included in Documenta IV (1968) and Documenta VI (1977).
Arakawa: Diagrams for the Imagination
The exhibition Arakawa: Diagrams for the Imagination receives a closer look by Gagosian director Ealan Wingate. In this video, he discusses the artist’s arrival in New York and examines the importance of maps and language in Arakawa’s work.
Losing Nothing: Arakawa and Madeline Gins
Mary Ann Caws reflects on the centrality of perception and imagination in Arakawa’s art, from his early diagrammatic paintings to his later architectural investigations with Madeline Gins.
The influential work of the Japanese-born artist Arakawa—who forged prescient and crucial links between Dadaism, abstract art, Minimalism, conceptual art, Pop art, and more—explored by David Colman.
Diagrams for the Imagination
Saturday, April 6, 2019, 2pm
Gagosian, 980 Madison Avenue, New York
Stephen Hepworth will lead a tour of the exhibition Arakawa: Diagrams for the Imagination at Gagosian, 980 Madison Avenue, New York. This show examines the works Arakawa made in the two decades following his 1961 arrival in New York, a period during which he worked in two dimensions, using paint, ink, graphite, and assemblage on canvas and paper. To attend the free event, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arakawa, And/Or in Profile No. 2, 1974 © Estate of Madeline Gins. Reproduced with permission of the Estate of Madeline Gins
Brett Littman and Miwako Tezuka
on Arakawa and Isamu Noguchi
Sunday, March 17, 2019, 2pm
Christie’s New York
With their expansively imaginative works, New York–based artists of Japanese descent Arakawa and Isamu Noguchi both pushed artistic, conceptual, and ideological limits throughout their lives, probing the line between art and design as well as borders within cultural identities. Brett Littman, director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, will be in conversation with Miwako Tezuka, consulting curator of Arakawa and Madeline Gins’s Reversible Destiny Foundation, to discuss the kinship between these artists in terms of their genre-defying interests and activities. The event is free and open to the public.
Arakawa, That in Which No. 2, 1974–75 © Estate of Madeline Gins. Reproduced with permission of the Estate of Madeline Gins
Why Not (A Serenade of Eschatological Ecology)
Monday, October 16, 2017, 7pm
National Sawdust, Brooklyn, New York
Arakawa’s film Why Not (A Serenade of Eschatological Ecology) (1969) will be screened. Renowned for his paintings, drawings, prints, and visionary architectural constructions, the artist's wide range of experimentation extended into filmmaking. There will be a discussion after the film with Peter Katz, Diana Seo Hyung Lee, Jay Sanders, and Miwako Tezuka. To attend the event, purchase tickets at www.nationalsawdust.org.
Arakawa, Why Not (A Serenade of Eschatological Ecology), 1969 © 2017 Estate of Madeline Gins. Reproduced with permission of the Estate of Madeline Gins and Reversible Destiny Foundation
Arakawa and Madeline Gins
March 30–June 16, 2018
Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery, Columbia University, New York
In the early 1960s Arakawa and Madeline Gins began a prolific collaboration that spanned nearly five decades and encompassed painting, installations, poetry, literature, architecture, urbanism, philosophy, and scientific research. The exhibition will examine this pivotal exploratory period through an array of original drawings—many exhibited for the first time—as well as archival material and writings that illuminate the working methods and wide-ranging research interests of Arakawa and Gins.
Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Drawing for “Container of Perceiving,” 1984 © 2018 Estate of Madeline Gins. Photo by Nicholas Knight
Los Angeles to New York
Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971
March 19–September 10, 2017
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
This exhibition features modern and contemporary works from the personal collection of gallerist Virginia Dwan. The selection has been culled from Dwan’s promised gift to Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art, which includes major works by American artists based on the East and West Coasts. The exhibition aims to illustrate Dwan’s creative spirit and her close association with Minimalism, conceptual art, and large-scale Earthworks. Included are artists Arakawa, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, and Yves Klein.
Michael Heizer, Double Negative, 1969