Japanese Artist Kojiro Akagi Examines the Spirits of Paris

Corinne LaBalme reports from the 8th arrondissement gallery whose owner/curator Chozo Yoshii brings Franco/Japanese fusion to Paris and a Montparnasse artistic landmark to the shadows of Mount Fuji.

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Chozo Yoshii’s original gallery in Tokyo (founded in 1965) and its latest branch in New York City (1990) are known for modern and contemporary Asian art. However, his Parisian gallery (1972) regularly showcases French masters like Roualt, Cézanne and Matisse, often paying special attention to multi-cultural artists like Kyoto-born Ryuzaburo Umehara who studied with Renoir.

In 1980, Chozo Yoshii’s eponymous foundation opened the Kiyoharo Art Colony near Mount Fuji, taking its architectural and spiritual inspiration from La Ruche, a Parisian artist’s haven established in 1902 by sculptor Alfred Boucher. La Ruche welcomed Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger and Guillaume Apollinaire, among others. Kiyoharo almuni include César, Olivier Debré, and Antoni Clavé.

"A la rue du Val-de-Grâce" by Kojiro Akagi, 23 June 2010. The Baroque Val-de-Grâce dome (1645-1666) in the 5th arrondissement; to the left, the building where Alphonse Mucha and Moise Kisling lived.
“A la rue du Val-de-Grâce” by Kojiro Akagi, 23 June 2010. The Baroque Val-de-Grâce dome (1645-1666) in the 5th arrondissement; to the left, the building where Alphonse Mucha and Moise Kisling lived. Photo Junichi Akahira.

Through May 17, the Galerie Yoshii hosts the work of by Paris-based artist Kojiro Akagi. Akagi doesn’t concentrate on the obvious architectural suspects like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. He’s just as likely to set up his easel across from a peeling façade on the rue de Faubourg Saint Martin, a row of ancient warehouses at Bercy or the obscure 16th arrondissement apartment building where Maria Callas lived.

His delicate brushwork delivers gale force charm, all the more because the details that many artists would brush away are firmly anchored in Akagi’s vision of Paris, a vision that celebrates chipped sidewalk tessera and television antennas perched like storks upon slate rooftops. Red traffic lights resemble rubies, graffiti tags swirl into sinuous calligraphy, and green plastic trash-bags are transformed into diaphanous, wind-blown frocks that might have been styled by Dior.

"Club le Château; l'angle de 103 rue Marcadet & 63 rue Mont-Cenis" by Kojiro Akagi, 24 May 2004; a Montmartre nightclub that incorporates the dovecote from a long-demolished, 15th century manor.
“Club le Château; l’angle de 103 rue Marcadet & 63 rue Mont-Cenis” by Kojiro Akagi, 24 May 2004; a Montmartre nightclub that incorporates the dovecote from a long-demolished, 15th century manor. Photo Junichi Akahira.

Honorary Vice President of the French Salon national des Beaux Arts and winner of countless awards on two continents, including the Prix La Ruche of the Association Amicale Japonaise, Akaji presents his latest book of 100 water-colors with tri-lingual texts, Le Paris d’Akagi tome V (Editions Maria) in concert with this exhibition (100€ at the gallery, otherwise 160€ list price). His paintings also figure in the collections of the Musée Carnavalet.

© 2014, Corinne LaBalme

Galerie Yoshii. 8 rue Matignon, 75008. Tel: 01.43.59.73.46. Metro Miromesnil or Franklin Roosevelt.

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