VeneKlasen/Werner is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Kōji Enokura (1942–1995), an important figure in post-war Japanese art and a founding member of Mono-ha, the Tokyo-based group of artists who radically redefined Japanese art during the late 1960s and 1970s. This first ever presentation of Enokura’s work in Berlin provides a rare opportunity to reconsider the artist’s unique oeuvre.
Kōji Enokura began his artistic career affiliated with the so-called Mono-ha group, a loose collective of artists whose work developed primarily in response to the cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s. The artists of Mono-ha (translated approximately as “school of things”) shared an interest in breaking from traditional approaches to painting and sculpture. An emphasis on material reality, the expressive potential of substance, and notions of bodily presence, absence and residue, are hallmarks of Mono-ha. Enokura was fascinated by the tension between the visceral potency of materials and the contingency of the body. His 1990 painting, Work, encapsulates this with stark economy: a broad swath of deeply saturated black stain is juxtaposed against raw cotton fabric; attached to Work’s surface, a painted wooden board mimics the form of horizontal stained mark which could be read as shadow or residue. Work traces an action and a presence, dramatizing the material and temporal relationship between the mark and its maker. Notions of time past or encroaching recur in a major late work, Print (STORY & MEMORY No. 1) from 1993. Its stained and painted curtain, installed painting-like in the gallery, is at once static, theatrical and expectant, a remarkable synthesis of conceptual sophistication and aesthetic elegance. Also included in the exhibition are several photographs documenting Enokura’s first mature works. Totally ephemeral in nature, these spatial and sculptural interventions – what Enokura termed “symptoms” – are known today only through the artist’s own photographic recordings. Though documentary in nature, Enokura’s photographs stand as valid artistic statements in their own right and illustrate poignantly Enokura’s passionate search for unconventional beauty in the mundane, the accidental and the overlooked.