Kikuo Saito - 20th Century & Contemporary Art: Online Auction New York Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Phillips
  • Kikuo Saito is associated with the Color Field and Lyrical abstraction movements in painting but explored a variety of mediums, notably theater and dance. While working at LaMaMa Experimental Theater Company in New York, Saito combined dance, lighting and music into unique productions that he would also direct on occasion. Throughout this wide range of artistic channels, his minimalist aesthetic remained steadfast. Saito’s paintings carry a strong sense of rhythm and movement, reflecting his background in performing arts.


    Five Pines, 1981, exemplifies this defining duality of Saito’s oeuvre. Bold brushstrokes and thick impasto contrast sharply with areas of the canvas left untouched. This sense of topographic imbalance emits a brisk cadence that speaks to the reciprocity between his disciplines. The lilting texture of the work and basic forms of the composition serve to highlight the distinct primary color scheme.


    Most of the canvas is covered by heavy swirling layers of maroon. The intensity of Saito’s impasto technique is offset by the bright yellow and deep blue areas to the right. These, along with the sudden dashes of green, brown and gray that dance around work, epitomize the abrupt color schemes Saito became known for.


    The seemingly polar relationship between the collaborative, communal nature of theater and the solitary practice of painting is quelled in Saito’s work. However, his art can also be looked at as an exploration of his experience learning English. The fleeting lines and indistinct forms read as text abstracted beyond comprehension.By refracting language, theater and painting through his unique minimalist lens, Saito occupies a distinct intersection of art.



    i “A Lyrical Japanese Abstract Expressionist in New York, Kikuo Saito Was Long Forgotten. Not Anymore.,” Artnet News, November 30, 2017, online


    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Thence by descent to the present owner


Five Pines

signed, titled and dated ""Five Pines" 1981 Kikuo Saito" on the reverse
oil on canvas
66 x 45 in. (167.6 x 114.3 cm)
Painted in 1981.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for $35,560

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20th Century & Contemporary Art: Online Auction

26 September - 5 October 2023