Fukushima: Recent Paintings by Yoko Sakai

Jan. 1, 2024 - Jan. 1, 1970

Able Fine Art NY Gallery is proud to present the solo exhibition “Fukushima” a series of recent paintings by the accomplished Japanese artist, Yoko Sakai.

Sakai has, for many years, focused on traces and aftermaths rather than occurrences themselves, harvesting both memory and remains. For this group of works, she traveled to Fukushima, where she had previously found and documented the effects on ocean life of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant precipitated by the catastrophic tsunami of 2011. Shells of animals whose lives were polluted by radiation, yet which partially cleaned that radiation from the water were her subject.

Later, she revisited the site to speak to survivors. (She, herself has family members who were survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) In monochromatic paintings, Sakai depicts stylized versions of a group of girls who remained in the vicinity of the power plant, after a large part of the population relocated. She heard their stories and their concerns for their health, for their future, for their ability to bear children, for their own survival, and was moved to portray these innocents.

Yet, they are not completely innocent, Sakai, found. They are still girls, filled with mischievous spirits. And so, she paints them as tender and young, but with pointed ears to depict the hint of devilishness she perceived.

The paintings are composed of grids, recalling pointillism, pixelation, and portraits like those of Chuck Close, as well as mosaics, a medium formerly employed by Yoko Sakai. They are awash in blue, evoking distance, as in the backgrounds in Renaissance paintings, evoking both sea and sky, and speaking of sorrow, as blue is the color most closely associated sadness. The stylization and abstraction of the paintings keep them from being personalized portraits, and bring them to a level of works of art that depict a time, a place, and a reality broader than any one individual can encompass.

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