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Kenjilo Nanao Bottle 2

Kenjilo Nanao, Bottle 2

Kenjilo Nanao image of artist

The Artist

According to Annex Galleries, Kenjilo  Nanao  was born in Aomori, Japan on July 26, 1929. He studied at the Asagaya Art Academy from 1948 to 1951, but changed his course to pursue economics at Nihon University, graduating in 1953. Another shift in focus led him to the U.S. in 1960 to study at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Insititute), graduating in 1963 with a degree from the graphics department. He then earned his MFA in 1971 at the San Francisco Art Institute under Nathan Oliveira, among others.

His first passion was printmaking, particularly lithography, and soon he became known for his subtly surreal works featuring everyday objects set against finely graded grounds of color. After exposure to Diebenkorn and other respected Bay Area artists, he soon delved into painting. In this medium he broke away from surrealism, pursuing Abstract Expressionist composition, with large format paintings in his siganture gradient tones. By the 1980s he focused almost exclusively on the medium and, along with painterly monotype printmaking, continued to work until his death in 2013.

Nanao lectured at San Jose State University in 1970, and was a professor of art at California State University at Hayward from 1970 until 1991, when he became Professor Emeritus. He was a visiting professor at University New Hampshire (1973 and Stanford University (1992). In 1965 he married fellow student of Oliveira, painter Gail Chadell.

His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.C.; City of San Francisco; Pasadena Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum; Cincinnati Museum of Art; Honolulu Academy of Art; Gruenwald (University of California, Los Angeles); and the Achenbach Foundation, among others. One-man shows include but are not limited to: Tsubaki Kindai Gallery, Tokyo, 1965; Smith Andersen Gallery, Palo Alto; California, 1971, '74, '78, '90, '98; Santa Barbara Museum, 1972; Achenbach Foundation Legion Honor, 1973; Dubins Gallery, Los Angeles, 1985, '86, '89, '92; Elins Eaglesmith Gallery, San Francisco, 2006; retrospective at Aomori Prefectura Museum, Japan, 2004, and Gallery Dionisi, 2004, among others. Exhibited in group shows at Gump's Gallery, San Francisco, 1971-1976; Anchorage Fine Arts and History Museum 1976; Brooklyn Museum, 1976, '78; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, 1980; Palo Alto Cultural Center, 1992; Galerie Sho, Tokyo, 1994; Josip Juraj Brookings Gallery, San Francisco, 1997; among others. Represented in permanent collections Biblioteque National, Paris; Museum Modern Art; New York City Library.

Kenji Nanao died in Berkeley, California on May 13, 2013.

Bottle 2

The Work of Art

Bottle 2 is typical of Nanao's style which seems to be surrealist. The  work depicts a  clear bottle with half an  avacado  within it. The work of art is a lithograph print one of a limited edition run of sixty. Thee work was created in 1975 and acquired by the University not long after.  Nanao's other works of art follow a similar style.  For example, Erotic DayDreams depicts a green and gold lollipop on clouds and a similar multicoloured background. Silver Flower on the other hand depicts a plant growing out of an nautilus shell.  These  works may reflect Nanao's interest in nature, shapes and contrasting patterns.

Erotic Daydream Silver Flower