Rei Naito

1961 | Hiroshima, Japan
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Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, Tout animal est dans le monde comme de l’eau à l’intérieur de l’eau, 2010, The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Kanagawa, © Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Japanese visual artist.

Rei Naito is known for her spatial works combining delicate motifs created from thread, ribbons, cloth, beads, glass and balloons with natural elements such as light, air, wind and water while interacting with the surroundings. Paintings in pale colours, on canvas and paper and small wood carvings of human figures only a few centimetres high, are also important ongoing works. Underpinning these works is the persistent question: “Is our existence on Earth a blessing in itself?”
In the exhibition une place sur terre [One Place on the Earth] at the Sagacho Exhibit Space in 1991, R. Naito presented a work in which delicate objects made from a diverse array of materials, including plants, cloth, shells, stones and glass, were symmetrically arranged inside an elliptical white flannel tent. The way the piece was viewed became a focus of discussion in itself: visitors entered the space one by one. This early work was later exhibited around the world, including in New York, Paris, Wales, Nagoya and Venice.

Alongside being the representative of the Japan Pavilion in 1997, for the 47th Venice Biennale, she also presented Being Called, a solo exhibition in the gallery of the Carmelite Monastery in Frankfurt, Germany. In it, 304 pillows dedicated to the martyrs and heretics depicted in the painted fresco on the walls of what used to be the monastery’s dining hall were laid out alongside various materials and mouldings, and, as with her earlier piece viewers were only able to enter individually. It was the first time she dedicated a work of art to those who have already passed away was created.

Though many of R. Naito’s works exist for only a limited time and in a specific place, she has also grappled with the installation of permanent works on the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. In 2001 she completed Being Given at the Kinza, the Art House Project on Naoshima Island, and in 2010 she completed Matrix for the Teshima Art Museum. In Being Given the floor and ceiling of an old, and now vacant, house, have been removed, and marble rings, threads and beads are arranged inside a dimly lit space where light enters only from the lower part of the building. It can only be viewed by one person at a time. By contrast, the Teshima Art Museum, which can be experienced by large crowds of people together, is a collaborative project with the architect Ryūe Nishizawa. Inside the water droplet-shaped concrete structure are two circular apertures from which hanging ribbons and threads sway in the wind, and a gush of water tumbles across the floor, creating a work that integrates the natural elements that surround the museum: light, wind and rain. In this manner, R. Naito’s work has gradually transitioned from spaces closed off from the outside world to spaces open to both the nature of the outside world and the existence of the people in it.

Since the latter half of the 2000s, she has held solo exhibitions at multiple art museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama (2009); the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum (2014); the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2017); the Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito (2018) and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2020). Additionally, she created a work confronting the history of Hiroshima at the Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris (2017). The process of conceiving works and exhibitions in accordance with each space, heightens the theme of compassion emerging out of the contrasting relationships between humanity and nature, humanity and art, self and other, life and death and interior and exterior, which in turn reflect one another.

Yukiko Yokoyama

Translated from Japanese by Sara Sumpter.

Publication made within the “Japanese women artists of the 19th and 20th centuries” program


© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, Tout animal est dans le monde comme de l’eau à l’intérieur de l’eau, 2010, The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Kanagawa, © Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, une place sur la Terre, 1991, Sagacho Exhibit Space, Tokyo, © Photo: Sakae Oguma, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, Being Called, 1997, Karmeliterkloster, Frankfurt on Main, Germany, © Photo: Axel Schneider, Frankfurt on Main, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, Being given, 2001, “Kinza”, Art House Project, Naoshima, Kagawa, © Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, Mirror Creation, 2020, installation view at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, © Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Rei  Naito — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rei Naito, on this bright Earth I see you, 2018, installation view at Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, © Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

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