Lydia Okumura Lydia Okumura

Lydia Okumura

Brazilian
b. 1948
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Overview

'I never try to make a space something that it isn't, but to reassert it and expand its possibilities.'

Born in São Paulo to a Japanese immigrant family, Lydia Okumura's interest in art was awakened by her father, a trained calligrapher. She attended a Japanese school in Brazil, merging two distinct cultural influences that resonate in her work, and received her first solo gallery exhibition at the age of 19. As part of the collective Equipe3, along with Genilson Soares and Francisco Iñarra, Okumura was invited to participate in the 1973 São Paulo Biennial, for which they created the site-specific abstract environment Points of View. This formative early installation was a precursor to her sustained investigation of the intersections between two- and three-dimensional space, creating precise geometric illusions using modest materials such as paint, string, wire mesh and glass.

At the urging of American art critic Gregory Battock, Okumura moved to New York in 1974, where she attended the Pratt Graphics Center and collaborated on one of Sol LeWitt's Minimalist wall drawings, to which her own works have been compared. Perhaps indirectly influenced by the Concrete and Neo-Concrete movements in her native Brazil, her work traces a trajectory of abstraction in Latin America and shows certain similarities to early works by Waldemar Cordeiro, Lygia Pape or Hélio Oiticica. As critic Ricardo Sardenberg argues, 'By drawing from these sources, Okumura breathes life back into the often cold and cerebral aesthetic of Minimalist art.'

Born in São Paulo to a Japanese immigrant family, Lydia Okumura's interest in art was awakened by her father, a trained calligrapher. She attended a Japanese school in Brazil, merging two distinct cultural influences that resonate in her work, and received her first solo gallery exhibition at the age of 19. As part of the collective Equipe3, along with Genilson Soares and Francisco Iñarra, Okumura was invited to participate in the 1973 São Paulo Biennial, for which they created the site-specific abstract environment Points of View. This formative early installation was a precursor to her sustained investigation of the intersections between two- and three-dimensional space, creating precise geometric illusions using modest materials such as paint, string, wire mesh and glass.

At the urging of American art critic Gregory Battock, Okumura moved to New York in 1974, where she attended the Pratt Graphics Center and collaborated on one of Sol LeWitt's Minimalist wall drawings, to which her own works have been compared. Perhaps indirectly influenced by the Concrete and Neo-Concrete movements in her native Brazil, her work traces a trajectory of abstraction in Latin America and shows certain similarities to early works by Waldemar Cordeiro, Lygia Pape or Hélio Oiticica. As critic Ricardo Sardenberg argues, 'By drawing from these sources, Okumura breathes life back into the often cold and cerebral aesthetic of Minimalist art.'

In New York, Okumura began creating her 'Situations' by painting directly on walls, connecting geometric shapes with pieces of string and graphite lines that result in deceptively simple optical illusions. She once described geometry as 'an intelligent type of drawing', and the strings connecting the painted shapes function as drawn lines in space, giving them the appearance of volume while their cast shadows add a further layer of visual complexity. As the artist explains, 'I longed to combine the idea of dimensions – from three-dimensional to flat surfaces – to multi-dimensions perceptible by the mind.'

Okumura participated in five São Paulo Biennials between 1973 and 1984, as well as numerous gallery and institutional exhibitions across the US and Latin America. Her work was shown in an important solo exhibition at the Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo in 1984 and, more recently, was the subject of a touring US retrospective in 2016. Lydia Okumura: Situations started at UB Art Galleries in Buffalo, travelling to Weber State University in Utah and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona.

Videos

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Group Exhibition Dimensions of Reality: Female Minimal

Group Exhibition

Dimensions of Reality: Female Minimal
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Installation view of Yan Pei-Ming's Against the Light at Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg Villa Kast Installation view of Yan Pei-Ming's Against the Light at Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg Villa Kast
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