Kazuo Nakamura

Region: Toronto Ontario
Generation: Nisei
Born 1926, Vancouver, British Columbia
Died 2002


Kazuo Nakamura was an internationally recognized abstract painter, widely noted for his application of rigorous mathematical structure to his depictions of both landscapes and more abstract visuals. Born in Vancouver in 1926, he was teaching himself how to paint landscapes when he was forcibly relocated as a teenager to the Tashme internment camp, where he worked by day, attended high school classes at night, and kept painting on weekends. He and his family eventually settled in Toronto, and Nakamura gained prominence on the art scene. Part of this recognition was as part of the Canadian artists’ group Painters Eleven, a group that came together and exhibited in the 1950s through their shared commitments to modernism and abstraction. But Nakamura’s paintings contrast with the largely abstract-expressionist work of his Painters Eleven colleagues in their reserved commitment to structure and form over more individualistic self-expression. Critics and scholars such as Bryce Kanbara draw an arc of progression from Nakamura’s early landscape works, which adhere enthusiastically to mathematical techniques such as linear perspective, to his later more abstract works, which often work mathematically towards unveiling patterns that exist in the natural world. On Nakamura’s significance to future generations of Japanese Canadian artists, Louise Noguchi has said, ‘Kaz’s presence on the Canadian artscene made it feasible to imagine that other Nikkei artists could become recognized in both the Japanese Canadian community and in mainstream Canadian society. Kaz validated the idea of being an artist in the community. Perhaps it wasn’t such a crazy endeavour.’

Sources: * Dault, Gary Michael. Kazuo Nakamura: The Trajectory to Universe. Tashme2 Hill, Richard Wiliam. Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2004. Kanbara, Bryce. Tashme Squared. Tashme2: Early works of Kazuo Nakamura. Toronto: Gendai Gallery, 2001. Sakamoto, Kerri. The Distance between Zero and One. Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure.

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