In this early work, Saito combines an attention to luminous color with the gestural lyricism that would become characteristic of the artist's later works. Saito created a series of large-scale canvases that have a field of space and color that conveys depth and on top there sits marks and movements that flare, move and recede. With ties to the Color Field tradition, Saito’s color landscapes are a richly infused exhibition of dragged and poured paint, often with bold flecks of color, animated calligraphic line, and stenciled lettering. Influenced by his work in theatre, many of his compositions are directly related to the orchestration of wordless dramas set within artistic frameworks of light, costume, music and dance. If one stares directly into the canvas and follows the marks, the painting appears to expand and one enjoys the fleeting quality of appearance and disappearance. Saito created a wonderful body of work which was not early in any of the movements that he draws from but only possible by having digested them and then adding his own experiences.
Japanese born and trained Kikuo Saito (1939–2016) moved to New York in 1966 where he worked as a carpenter while acting as studio assistant to Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Larry Poons. Saito had long association with La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York creating costumes, set design, and directing. His productions drew inspiration from traditional and avant-garde Japanese theatre.
We feel his work will have a strong market going forward and enthusiastic engagement. Beginning in the 1950’s and perhaps earlier than even that, there has been an intriguing community of Japanese - American artists. They bring an aesthetic to their work which continues to be a well married joining of their culture to ours and which is always marked with an elegance and timelessness.
Saito's paintings and are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Aldrich Contemporary Museums, and numerous private and corporate collections. KinoSaito, a non-profit museum and art space in Verplanck, New York, opened in 2020, in honor of Saito's interdisciplinary practice and spirit.
Provenance: David Deitcher Gallery Ltd., NY. label affixed to stretcher
Private collection, Georgia
Skinner Auction, Boston, MA