breath is at once the title and the subject of the present installation. While we rarely pay attention to it, breath, like our heartbeat, is the central vital sign of our existence. Breath and its life-giving rhythm are mysteries that play key roles in the creation myths of many cultures. With our breath, we literally inhale life.
Doubtlessly, the work of Japanese artist Rei Naito (*1961) constitutes one of the eminent positions in contemporary art. Her installations – breath among them – are related conceptually and aesthetically to the works of American painter Agnes Martin (1912–2004) and German-American sculptor Eva Hesse (1936–1970). They all share the uncompromising search for an ultimate aesthetic quintessence.
At the core of our exhibition breath are fifty watercolours Rei Naito created for Munich during the past year. Their chronological presentation makes them appear like a visual diary. The group‘s title colour beginning points to the spark that triggered Rei Naito’s artistic investigation. She lets colour speak for itself. In her tender paintings, the watercolour appears to be sputtering from the nothingness of the white sheet. Any compositional order seems to have submitted to a flow and to be pushing beyond the edges of the sheet. The works are grouped into diptychs, of which each second sheet constitutes a reaction to the coloration of the corresponding first sheet. Naito’s mutable painterly dialogue, which subtly varies colours during the year, can be detected in one sheet after the next. What does it signify when colour, here a metaphor for our joy in life, returns? How to deal with this new lust for life, after the world has held its breath for two years and life almost came to a standstill?!
At first glance, we are tempted to read the radical minimalism of Rei Naito’s gentle installation merely as an expression of the incomparable perfection and ascetic severity we admire in the Japanese aesthetic, which remains unmatched in the Western hemisphere. However, when the joyous event happens and we are touched by Rei Naito’s Munich exhibition breath, we experience intimately that this installation is about much more and that breath speaks to universal questions that move us all. These questions constitute our inner compass that guides us along our paths.
Inside our exhibition galleries, Rei Naito addresses us in various ways with delicate artistic means. We are invited to become part and agents of the installation. Each on our own do we enter into an illuminating discourse with our personal experiences, hopes and perspectives for life.
breath challenges us to be mindful. It is exactly these imperceptible, fleeting sensory impressions to which we hardly dare subject ourselves in this world that is governed by achievement and efficiency. Possibly the events of recent years have triggered in us a desire to rethink. So this is the right time to present to you Rei Naito in the Pinakothek der Moderne, a place for contemporary art.
With the exhibition breath by Rei Naito, the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München once more, after recent projects with Gerhard Richter, Michael E. Smith, Cecily Brown, and Tony Cragg, addresses the question as to the importance of drawing in the 21st century as a driving force within the visual arts and examines its role as an existential form of expression of the human intellect and its creative energy. With this project as well, we are hoping to share with you a glimpse into the promising and exciting future of drawing.
Opening: 7 June, 6.30 pm