Taos Modern Michio Takayama's work is on exhibit at 203 Fine Art Gallery 1335 Gusdorf Road, June 12 to Aug. 20, 2021. There will be an opening reception Saturday (June 12) with libations and a space to mingle with some of the artist's large-scale "atmospheric and sensitive" works spanning three decades.
Eric Andrews, artist and owner of 203 Fine Art Gallery, said the selection in the exhibit represents "the scope of his work, from abstracted landscapes, to gestural and atmospheric compositions. Among other Taos Moderns, Michio Takayama's one of our favorites, and we have the pleasure of having a large collection of his work.
"His paintings are ethereal and meditative, combining the qualities of traditional Japanese painting and calligraphy with French impressionism, mid-century American modernism and abstract expressionism.
"This is the first solo show we have held for Takayama. The exhibition includes works from private and institutional collections, and spans three decades of the artist's career (1960s -1980s).
"This exhibition is also special because we are working with the Wurlitzer Foundation to raise funds for the Foundation. Our exhibition includes some pieces from the Wurlitzer collection. This is the first in-person opening reception since 2019, so we are excited to welcome the community back into the gallery."
Michael McCormick, owner of Michael McCormick and Sons Gallery, may be one of the few people left in Taos who knew Takayama. He met the artist in the winter of 1972.
"I drove up a steep snowy road in my 'new to me' Datsun pickup truck. When Takayama opened the door, he boomed 'hello'!, then hugged me and asked if I'd like to join an afternoon tea ceremony already in progress."
The house was filled with artwork. McCormick noted it was "Good!" That was the beginning of a friendship, "we were family," that lasted decades until Takayama passed away in 1994. McCormick also represented the artist for many years.
Takayama was born in the fall of 1903, in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. As the first son of a country squire he was groomed from birth to find a "respectable" career. He studied law and became a banker in Tokyo, painting after work and on weekends. In 1939 following successes in the modern art community, he left the world of banking and turned to painting full time. His father disowned him.
Takayama then pursued his own path as an artist winning awards and national acclaim in Japan. Even a brief stint in the military didn't deter him. He painted "large landscapes with small planes." His war time depictions caught the attention of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo who presented Takayama with a rare vintage sword "a couple hundred years old." He sold it years later to pay for his son's wedding.
It was a former painting student who introduced Michio and his wife Yaye to Taos in the summer of 1966. He became enamored with high-altitude scenery - takayama is Japanese for "high mountain." He returned to Taos in 1967 to begin a one-year fellowship at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation residency program which was extended to two years. Later Takayama and Yaye built their home and studio in Taos with expansive views of Taos Mountain.
Takayama was an unlikely Taos resident, McCormick said, "There were few Japanese people living here then. The day Michio got his post office box, he held the key and smiled, the numbers symbolized in Japanese the sentiment "never leave." Takayama found Taos a place that reflected the vastness of his mind and heart and a place where he could express himself with his palette knife and brushes."
McCormick said Michio painted multiple canvases at a time, working on and moving to the next as the layers of his oils dried.
"He always had 10 to 12 canvases going at once, while listening to classical music on an old record player. He began his work day sitting in an overstuffed chair, watching the sun come up. As the sun was coming through the windows, he would light one cigarette (although he didn't smoke) and blow smoke into the sun's rays. The smoke rings would later become part of the painting. On his primed canvas he would chalk lines, do an understudy, then layer the oils, scraping at different stages as the oil cured to extract different colors. He considered color the most important component of his paintings, but more important than color ... the feeling of color."
McCormick shared a quote from the Academy Award-winning film director George Cukor, about Takayama. "His [Takayama's] approach to art is the achievement of complete harmony by blending the opposites. This is a purely cerebral manifestation derived from emotional involvement. It is meditation in color. His philosophy is expressed by an ancient Asiatic adage: 'I have not yet seen the mountain. The mountain looks at me.' "