artworks introduced here are all monuments that say something about the relationship
between nature and humanity in the global environment and familiar living environments.
Using themes related to the natural environment, Tanabe expresses universal social
ideas no longer found in many works of contemporary art.|
is universality associated with nature? This is an fundamental issue in Tanabe's
art. Nature tends to be thought of as opposed to human beings, but it goes without
saying that human beings are an element of nature and the minds of human beings
are also a part of nature. We know intuitively that external nature is the agent
that programs our inner nature, our minds. I believe that this unconscious awareness
is on a higher level than religious experience. This is why external nature is
recognized as something fundamentally valuable and beautiful. There is a mechanism
at work here that Tanabe uses effectively.
ancient times, people living in the caves of Alta Mira prayerfully painted the
forms of wild animals (nature) that were needed for survival. These animals were
beautiful as well as necessary. The survival of contemporary human beings is also
assured by a proper relationship with nature, a fact that is attracting much attention
today. Tanabe expresses this connection between the natural environment and the
survival of humanity.
- Wild Rice, 1999 Photo: Naoki Takeda|
use of such motifs as birds, lizards, and wild rice suggests that he has abandoned
the kind of art generally recognized by contemporary society and returned to the
roots of art. The people of Alta Mira probably did not have a concept of art as
such. They simply painted things essential for their own survival and by so doing
created extremely effective works of art. Tanabe's art is a contemporary version
of the Alta Mira cave paintings.
uses a variety of methods in order to transform his subject matter into an effective
message. He increases the scale of the work. He enlarges small, ephemeral things.
He makes the work stronger and more durable than is physically necessary. He chooses
sophisticated technology. And he incorporates the surrounding environment as a
part of the work. All these methods are the fundamental features of a monument.
the most important general characteristic of Tanabe's work is its formal perfection.
The basic forms of contemporary sculpture were developed rather quickly after
its beginning by Brancusi, Noguchi, Giacommeti and others. Later artists were
faced with the difficult problem of going beyond the strong influence of these
past masters. No matter how hard they try, most sculptors end up making sculpture
influenced by Brancusi or Noguchi and they unable to get beyond them. The barrier
created by these earlier artists might be described as fundamental. In the world
of contemporary art, it has caused artists to give up the pursuit of formal concerns.
As a result, most artists today emphasize concepts and belittle formal qualities.
Tanabe agonized over the influence of Noguchi, one of these past masters, but
did not stop exploring form. Most likely, Tanabe ended the long silence at the
beginning of his career when he realized that he could use something outside of
art as a source of energy. This an approach that had always been accepted in the
world of religious art in the past. It can easily be supposed that strength of
religious faith helped to improve the formal qualities of art. Tanabe makes use
of his strong feelings about the global environment and the survival of humankind
in his pursuit of artistic form. As a result, I believe he has reached a level
that is on a par with the masters of the past. Because art criticism has lost
its capacity for commenting effectively on form, this aspect of Tanabe's art has
not received sufficient attention. His work provides a key to opening up the closed
world of "art for art's sake."
Yagyu, Chokoku no aru machizukuri, Nagano-shi, Saku-shi, shizen to no taiwa kara
- yagaichokokusho to Tanabe Mitsuaki no Saku" (Urban Development with Sculpture,
Nagano and Saku, a Dialogue with Nature - Outdoor Sculpture Prizes and Mitsuaki
Tanabe's Saku), Sansai, September 1983. |
Nomura, commentary on Saku, 1983. |
Nomura, commentary on Naoetsu, 1988. |
Fujishima, Outdoor Sculpture of Kanagawa, 1997.|
by Stanley N. Anderson