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The Galerie Lara Vincy is showing a group of paintings by Akira Kito spanning three periods from 1955 through 1964, the years during which he was represented by the gallery since its opening in 1955.
In resonance, the emptied-out metallic sculptures and the glass prisms by Sébastien Kito, his son, will carry out a dialogue with the themes present in A. Kito’s œuvre: "childish" characters and objects from the first period (1955-1957), symbols and mythology (1958-1961), the final period from 1962 to 1964 regroups works with a freer strand, like "Cinéma" (1964) and prematurely announce the trends of his pictorial researches during the following years.

« Two artists, very different from one another, united through filiation and filial piety – and faithful to the Lara Vincy gallery: Akira and Sébastien Kito, his son.

Akira Kitô (1925-1994) lived and worked in Paris between 1953 and 1970, date on which he returned to Japan never to return until his death.

Son and grandson of traditional artists acknowledged by the Imperial court of Japan, Kitô had come to train in western and modern art, specifically by first studying in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris, from 1953 through 1957.

As soon as he finished, he became active – not only with his production but also by his commitment to the effervescent artistic life at the time.

His first paintings from the years 1955 and 1956 bear witness to his admiration for Paul Klee, for Dubuffet, for the naive or falsely naive artists. They are apparently childish paintings like Ma sœur est morte or Ma voiture, which do not fool us as regards their author’s great know-how in drawing and in the subtle use of color on very worked-over backgrounds – that were to remain his "trademark".

These "childish works" were very close to works by the group Cobra, especially those of Appel, but with more subdued and less flashy colors.

Pretty soon, Kitô intermingled with that "modern" European inspiration, signs and figures taken as much from his native country, Japan, as well as from primitive and indigenous art forms, while always retaining the same kinship with Klee.

During the years 1958-1960, Akira Kitô managed a subtle and powerful synthesis between heterogenic vocabularies thanks to a masterful and consummate technique. Whether he painted a Masque, a Japonaise or a Dragon, we are dealing, on a reduced scale (mainly formats of 70cm on 50cm) with a simple composition on deep backgrounds, scratched and worked over.  The strokes that structure the composition are primordial signs that might come from Japanese culture but, for us, possibly imaginary archetypes, like those we find at the same period in works by Miro or Appel. The atmosphere is mysterious and magical. One should recall on that subject, that the painter’s family name, Kitô, in Japanese means  "devil’s head". The titles speak for themselves: Amulette, Rêve noir, Femme mythologique. With, occasionally, a melancholy personal connotation: Autoportrait, Solitude, even though humor is also often present.

Later on, during the sixties, the lines tended to be scattered or to create more complicated networks (Désespoir, Ville, l’Île déserte). The reference to Hundertwasser to whom Kitô was very close is obvious – but one must point out that the exchanges between the two friends were reciprocal. However, Kitô maintained his palette, gray and subdued, without taking over his friend’s colorful carnival. Kitô then happily combined the Cobra playfulness, Dubuffet’s fake naïveté and Japanese daemons.

For us, the story stopped there because suddenly the painter went back to Japan, where he continued in the same style, but for the Japanese public. An unusual turnabout after an intense period of commitment to the Parisian artistic life: as if the power of the origins could not indefinitely be renounced nor even indefinitely suspended.

The same cannot be said of his son Sébastien Kitô who is, for his part, a Franco-Japanese artist: "full time" if one might say that without appearing ridiculous, since Sébastien Kitô was born in France in 1963 and has unceasingly worked here.

Like his father, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts – and, ironically or not, in the studio of an artist who was originally a member of Cobra, I mean Alechinsky. Although he worked with Raymond Hains as his assistant for more than ten years, he has developed a very personal practice as a sculptor, which is the very antithesis of Cobra’s expressive fantasies, the antithesis of calligraphy, of “matiérisme” and of mythology.

His sculpture is made up of simple forms, emptied out and "transparent", which one can see through with our eyes and even physically cross through for the more monumental works. They cut out space with lightness and are inscribed like full-scale drawings. The shapes are obtained in a legible manner by the cutting out of the interior surfaces that are then folded and spread out towards the exterior. If there is something Japanese here, it is an echo of the origami, the art of folding paper applied here to metals and to glass.

The colors are straightforward, such as can be found in shops (red, yellow, blue, pink), unless Kitô retains the color of the metal, of the pewter, industrially stained glasses, of the material. They catch the eye with their shape and then let it go through them. If there was a "modern" proximity to notice, it would be with Calder but without the "mobile" dimension. The articulations are often built with hinges that indicate the possibility of several positions - even that of folding over the sculpture.

It is important to underline that Sébastien Kitô can work on very different scales; from the small, discreet sculpture that one places on a piece of furniture to the sculpture for outside spaces, by way of indoor sculptures.

One finds there something original, between minimalism, immobile kineticism, conceptual project and even design, for instance in the colorful prisms, so enigmatic that they appear to have come from some other planet.

The greatest compliment on can pay Sébastien Kitô is that his sculpture manages to be ageless: it does not answer the clichés (essentially naturalistic or technological) of contemporary production but neither does it have a visibly dependent relationship with the past. It is as it is in itself. That is not so common and produces on our eye the refreshing effect of a change of scene without exoticism. »
Yves Michaud, December 1, 2015.
Translated into english by Ann Cremin, 2015.