The Yuko Nii Retrospective


Part Two: Stone Paintings, Drawings and Writings

Curated by Terrance Lindall

A Celebration to Conclude the 20th Anniversary Year of
 The WAH Center

A Special Exhibition Honoring Our Founder 

Show Dates: October 28–November 26, 2017
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 28, 4–6 PM

Catalog available


Last November, we were pleased to present The Yuko Nii Retrospective, Part 1: Dune in celebration of the WAH Center’s 20th Anniversary, showing her monumental, nearly mural size, cycle of Dunes, expressing her breadth of artistic style and ability. In the Dune Series, Nii maintains a certain precision and a strong sense of volume using a pointillist style that she calls “dotism.” On October 21st, we will conclude our 20th Anniversary celebrations with The Yuko Nii Retrospective, Part 2: Stone, Drawings and Writings. Yuko started Stone series during her Pratt Graduate School year in 1966 and continued for 10 years until 1976.  She took the live nude model drawing class for one semester in 1966.  And the Yuko’ writings were done at different periods of her life..

"Spectrum" painting by Yuko Nii

Before her magnificent monumental Dune paintings, Nii was best known for her large-scale stone paintings. These works served as a precursor to the development of her Dune paintings.

Stone paintings by Yuko Nii

In addition, we will present figurative works by the artist, from her time at Pratt Institute’s Graduate School. These drawings are part of Nii’s first formal, academic drawing training during a course with live nude models. 

Life drawings by Yuko Nii

These studies show evidence of her keen observation of human figures and her ability to draw quick sketches on newsprint paper. It is interesting to see the contrast between figures in her drawings and the large canvas landscapes of her stone paintings, as both are equally volumetric and plastic. She is able to balance stark contrasts between black and white compositions in drawings as deftly as she is able to create entirely volumetric surfaces in her stone paintings. Nii tempers different intensities and rhythms, embodying them in the finished process. Thus, one can find solemn and serene works with religious connotations in the paintings, next to very fleshy, human figures in her drawings. When seen in their totality, they register a broad thematic spectrum: epic (in her lyrical dunes), and in her figurative work, satirical, compassionate, with a humanistic inspiration and a strong impact. Accustomed to working on a grand scale in her paintings, she carries a humanistic sensibility into her smaller black and white works. 

Truth in her drawings is incarnated as human form; the energetic and expressionistic handling in these works testifies to a rational and practical assessment of its subject matter.  Nothing is graphically or plastically hidden.

Ever since Yuko started living in New York City in 1966, she was able to see exhibits of significant creative movements: both American and German Abstract Expressionisms, Pop Art, Hard Edge, Kinetic, Field Paintings Flux, Social Realism, Regionalism, the Harlem Renaissance, Cubism, Dada, Fauvism, Impressionism, etc., During a period when she could have imitated a host of styles, she was able to successfully negotiate diverse European and American influences to construct a wholly artistic and uniquely Japanese identity for herself. Well-read and intellectual, she not only learned from her peers about theater, literature and philosophy, she absorbed avant-garde art by visiting galleries in in New York and traveling the entire USA and abroad to Russia, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. 

Nii’s art evades specific classification owing to a unique subject matter and symbolism. The modern viewer may find certain sympathy with the universalizing goals and themes of mankind as it is seen reflected in a spiritually universality of peace and harmony in Nii’s work. Nii’s public character can be labeled as reflective, composed, and apolitical, and her inner creative force produced an art that can be seen as a yearning for a harmonious beauty that all people find appealing.

Video from Yuko Nii Retrospective Part 1: “Dune”

What People Have Said About Yuko Nii’s Art

“Yuko Nii’s paintings from each of her stages of development have as a marked quality, a suggestion that the ground of life is immaterial soul rather than the material body itself. For example, it is quite clear that ennoblement and dualisms pervade Nii’s decade-long “Stone” series originally produced as part of the artist’s graduate studies at Pratt Institute rom 1966 to 1968.”  Dominique Nahas, Art Critic

“A clarity of vision and mastery of technique so characteristic of the best Japanese artists.” Stuart C, Henry, Director, The Berkshire Museum

“The work of Yuko Nii carries a feeling of intensity and personal poetry. Her landscapes are in fact a landscape of her inner self.” Tamon Miki, Chief Curator, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

“I have known and worked with Yuko on various projects over the years and she is a person of great intelligence and integrity as well as a great artist.” Robert Panza, Executive Director, Visual Artists and Galleries Association

“A remarkable person, dedicated to the art world and her fellow artists, as well as being a fine artist herself.” Curtis Harnack, President, School of American Ballet

“A person of great ability and integrity as well as a fine artist.” Shoji Sadao, *[20]Honorary Life Trustee, The Isamu Noguchi Museum

“During 20 years of solid friendship, Yuko and I have worked on several projects together, building a bridge of the arts between Japan and the United States. She is a seriously hardworking, totally committed and great artist. Additionally she is also a free spirited, fun loving person with a great sense of humor! Because she is so well balanced and because of her creativity and energy, I have no doubt that the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center will be a great success!” Kenneth Noland

“An exceptionally gifted fine artist, a farseeing visionary…sincerely concerned about the well being of the human race.” Max Roach, Jazz Percussionist

“I have known her for 20 years as a fine artist, friend and a very lively, active, and committed person who gets things going and gets them done.” Esteban Vicente

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