Sato is amongst a very interesting group of Japanese artists who had international careers and traversed the globe during the 1950’s through to the 1980’s. This group was well examined in an important exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966. They put together a fine catalogue and representation of artists with this background and looking at the catalogue as a whole, it is fascinating to see the commonality of aesthetics that hold together these artists. We have long taken an interest in Japanese artists who during and after World War II made in-roads onto the international stage of abstract painting. We feel Sato is a compelling artist from this period and avidly seek out his work. One reason is that an artist like Sato took the best of what modern art was investigating. Such as Dubuffet’s primitivism and automatic painting and America’s Abstract Expressionist gesture painting and Sato added to it a very Asian traditional element that is complimentary. Very few Americans have this aesthetic.
Sato was also a key organizer of artist groups such as the Shinseisaku (New Creation Association) Association in Japan and himself had studied under the Yoga artist Fujishima Takeji and at the Academie Colarossi in Paris. He had many one man shows at important galleries and has been included in museum exhibitions.
Terre Figée is a marvelous work by Sato for a number of reasons. It is typical of his work in that it has the highly built-up surface which resembles less an oil painting than earth and soil itself. While this is a wintry scene it has a warming sun and deep blue azure sky radiating above it giving a sense of over-ruling optimism. The earth itself, while frozen is alive with markings that indicate life and activity and all the elements of civilization and we can intuit house, figures and nature. It is interesting to speculate if Sato was familiar and inspired by the work of Max Ernst and Jean Dubuffet as there is a strong relation to their aesthetics in this composition. It is a marvelous, moving and rare work by this artist by whom it is difficult to acquire his works in general.
Eva Cohon Gallery, Highland Park, Illinois
Private Collection, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Palm Beach Modern Auctions, FL., 15 May 2021, lot 185