Since the early seventies, Kenjilo Nanao has been a quiet force in the San Francisco Bay Area school of art (as distinct from the New York school).
 
Kenji first became known for his delicate, surreal, and sometimes erotic lithograph still lifes with finely graded grounds of, color reminiscent of Japanese Shunga prints. Although lithography had been his medium of choice since his student days with Nathan Oliviera, in the early eighties he began to focus more attention on painting. Interestingly, the larger scale and more direct approach attending the new medium seemed to inspire an equally dramatic shift in style. "Even though I had been dealing with a figurative subject (in the prints), my concern was with an abstract message," he said.
 
And that realization led to a re-examination of his understanding of the tenets of abstract expressionism. The result has been to bridge the apparent semantic ambiguity between, say, Rothko's idea of "equivalence" in abstract forms and the metaphorical "message" contained within them. That is, each is both equivalence and a metaphor for the other, a joining of plastic and metaphorical imagery which Nanao calls "a state of elegant confusion."
 
But if confused, it is not obvious. His paintings are elegant, his message eloquent. His facility with the medium and the aesthetic flowing from it embraces both the Japanese and American heritages of which it is born. Kenji's work represents a rare level of sophistication in all respects.

 

GalleryGuide.org, October 1999
 

 


Kenjilo Nanao
 
Born: 1929
Aomori, Japan
 
 
Education
 
San Francisco Art Institute
Tamarind Institute


x

One-Person Exhibitions

2011
"Pacific Paintings"
Triton Museum of Art
Santa Clara, California
2011
"The Roots of a Painter"
Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery
San Francisco, California
2009
Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery
San Francisco, California
2008
Art Foundary Gallery
Sacramento, California
2006
Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery
San Francisco, California
2005
Gallery 3A
Kyoto, Japan
2005
Art Forum JARFO
Kyoto, Japan
2005
Yougen Gallery
Tokyo, Japan
2004
"Retrospective Exhibition"
Aomori Prefectural Museum
Aomori, Japan
2004
Gallery Dionisi
West Hollywood, California
2003
Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery
San Francisco, California
2001
Durka Chang Gallery
San Francisco, California
1999
Brookings Gallery
San Francisco, California

1999

Smith Andersen Gallery
Palo Alto, California
1998
Smith Andersen Gallery
Palo Alto, California

1998

Brookings Gallery
San Francisco, California
1998

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Rental Gallery
San Francisco, California

1994

Aomori Gallery
Aomori, Japan

1992

Don Soker Contemporary Art
San Francisco, California

1992

Dubins Gallery
Los Angeles, California

1991

Sun Gallery
Hayward, California

1990

Smith Andersen Gallery
Palo Alto, California

1990

Dubins Gallery
Los Angeles, California

1989

Eva Cohen Gallery
Chicago, Illinois

1989

Dubins Gallery
Los Angeles, California

1987

Don Soker Gallery
San Francisco, California

1986

Dubins Gallery
Los Angeles, California

1985

Dubins Gallery
Los Angeles, California

1983

Osaka Formes Gallery
Tokyo, Japan

1979

Aomori Gallery
Aomori, Japan

1978

Gallery Huntley Canbera
Campbell, Australia

1978

Smith Andersen Gallery
Palo Alto, California

1977

Richmond Art Center
Richmond, California

1974

Smith Andersen Gallery
Palo Alto, California

1973

Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts
Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco, California

1972

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara, California

1971

Smith Andersen Gallery
Palo Alto, California

1965

Tsubaki Kindai Gallery
Tokyo, Japan

1964

Brooklyn Museum Art School
Brooklyn, New York


Residencies

x

2004
Aomori Contemporary Art Centre
Aomori, Japan
2004
Tamarind Lithography Workshop
Albuquerque, New Mexico
2003
Tom Blaess Printshop
Berne, Switzerland

Group Exhibitions
(Selected)

2010
"Small Treasures"
Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery
San Francisco, California
2008
"Paralel Lines"
Works on paper from Monterey County Collections
Hartnell College Gallery, Salnas, California
2003
Smith-Anderson Gallery
Palo Alto, California
2003
American Academy of Arts and Letters Invitational Exhibition
New York, New York
1997
San Francisco Museum of Art Rental Gallery
San Francisco, California

1997

The Old 'New' Garde
J.J. Brookings Gallery
San Francisco, California

1994

16 California Artists, Galerie Show
Tokyo, Japan
1992
Directions in Bay Area Printmaking
Cutural Center, Palo Alto, California

1989

"Then & Now", Jeremy Stone Gallery
San Francisco, California

1988

Landscape Visions, Office of the Chancellor
California State University Long Beach
1983

National Invitational Exhibition
University of Hawaii at Hilo

1981

7th University of Dallas, National Print Invitational
University of Dallas, Dallas, Texas

1981

"Beyond Words", San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
San Jose, California

1980

First Prize, California: Printmaking & Paper
Reese Bullen Gallery, Humbolt State College
Humbolt, California

1980

" The Colored Print", Crocker Art Museum
Sacramento, California

1978

Grabdores Norte Americanos, Museo de Arte Moderno
La Tutuila, Colombia, South America

1978

Eight West Coast Printmakers, Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn, New York

1978

New Faces in Printmaking, Marjorie Kauthman Graphics
Houston, Texas

1977

"Night Landscapes", Oakland Museum of Art
Oakland, California

1976

The 20th National Print Exhibition, , The Brooklyn Museum
New York, New York

1976

Tenth Intemational Biennial Exhibition of Prints
Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum
Anchorage, Alaska

1975

24th National Exhibition of Prints
Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

1974

New Talent in Printmaking, Associated American Artists
New York, New York

1974

Modern Printmaking, Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, New York

1974

West Coast, Printmakers Show, Van Straatan Gallery
Chicago, Illinois

1974

California Exhibit, Linda Parris Gallery
Seattle, Washington

1973

The Philadelphia Print Club Show
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1973

Twenty-Third Library of Congress Show
Washington, D.C.

1973

Second Hawaii National Print Exhibition
Honolulu Academy of Art, Hawaii

1973

San Francisco Area Printmakers
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio

1973

Purchase Prize
Eighteen National Print Show, Brooklyn Museum of Art
Brooklyn, New York

1972

" Realism - 1972", Contemporary Gallery
Dallas, Texas

1971

California Printmakers, Palace of thc Legion of Honor
San Prancisco, California

1971-76

Gump's Gallery
San Francisco, California

1971

Felix Landau Gallery
Los Angeles, California

1970

Purchase Prize
Deca Lithographers, San Francisco Art Festival
San Francisco, California

1968

Northwest Printmakers' 39th International Exhibition
Seattle Art Museum
Seattle, Washington

1967

The Printer's Art, San Francisco Museum of Art
San Francisco, California


Grants


1980

National Endowment for thc Arts
Individual Fellowship for Emerging Artist

1968

Ford Foundation Grant, Tamarind Lithography Workshop
Los Angeles, California

Awards


1980

First Prize
California: Printmaking & Paper: A Survey
Reese Bullen Gallery, State College
Humbolt , California

1973-78

4 Purchase Prizes
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Honolulu, Hawaii

1973

Purchase Prize
City of Philadelphia for the Library of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1972

Purchase Prize
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Brooklyn, New York


Commissions
(Selected)


1989

Painting, Red Canyon, Royal Park Sapporo Hotel
Sapporo, Japan

1987

Edition of 100 Prints, Art Source
San Francisco, California

1976

A Suite of 5 Images, Edition of 60 Prints
New Leaf Publisher
Walnut Creek, California

1975

Edition of 60 Prints, Associated American Artists
New York, New York

1972

Edition of 20 Prints, City of San Francisco
San Francisco, California

x
Public Collections
(Selected)

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
San Jose Mueum of Art, San Jose, CA
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA.
Biblioteque National, Paris, France
Cincinnati Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio
Honolulu Academu of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii
Achenbach Foundation for Graphics
Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma, CA
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
City of San Francisco, CA

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA

Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA

Monterey Museum of Art, Monterey, CA

Grunewald Collection, Univcrsity of California Westwood, CA

Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul, Minnesota

Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Royal Park Sapporo Hotel, Sapporo, Japan

De Saisset Museum, University of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA

Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Monterey, CA

BELCORP USA, San Francisco, CA

Aomori Prefectural Museum, Aomori, Japan

Aomori Museum of Art, Aomori, Japan