Masafumi Maita JP, 1944-2009

A pioneer artist of the Japanese conceptual art scene of the 1970s, Masafumi Maita (1944-2009) devises systems that question the role of images and the limits of the representation of reality through photography. Maita plays on discrepancies and variations between the natural and contemplative subject that he photographs, the reality that he records (views of forests, beaches, and mountains devoid of any human presence) and the serial and arbitrary operation that he repeats within the image.

In nine photographs, each of the Flow ensembles (1976) stages the artist, facing the ocean, placed at the centre of a rectangle traced on the ground, showing the various phases of the methodical torsion of a lead rod. According to a predefined protocol, the artwork suggests a form of inventory of gestures and possibilities of inscription of the body in space. Photography records and narrates a performance: it falls within a new temporality.

"The essence of his idea is a consciousness of time" writes Japanese critic Yusuke Nakahra. With the Untitled (1979) series of landscapes in black and white marked by the artist's hand, Maita accentuates the phenomena of discrepancies. A discrepancy between the landscape and simple geometric shapes, triangle, circle, and square traced in dotted lines on the negative; between the subject seen and the gaze that we bring to bear on it.  A discrepancy between two temporalities, that of the real that has been captured and that of the gesture that alters the image and remains active.

Maita developed this research in installations, introducing objects and then sculptures into them, entering into conversation with his photographs.  "Spatially," writes Yusuke Nakahra, "the photographic image and the real objects appear continuous, but we feel as though we are facing two different temporalities - the present and the past. The real objects always show the present time while the photographic image shows the past. [] This difference is decisive. Combining the photo and real objects, the artist brings our awareness of time into vivid focus. [] It is the difference between perception and memory. In other words, Maita's work consists of two elements - the perception and the memory."[1]

Masafumi Maita (1944–2009) was born in Manchuria (China); he studied in Paris (1971–1973) then lived and worked in Japan. Since the 1970s, he has questioned and reinvented his medium – photography – in relation to objects, then sculpture. His works have been exhibited worldwide, particularly at the Venice Biennales of 1976 and 1986, and belong to numerous public collections, notably in Japan (The Utsukusi-ga-hara Open-Air Museum, Nagano; Open-Air Museum of Sculpture, Ube; Museum of Modern Art, Kamakur; Museum of Modern Art, Toyama; Yokosuka Museum of Art, Kanagawa, etc.), France (Collection Pinault; Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg; Musée Cantini, Marseille; FRAC Champagne-Ardenne), Italy (MuSaBa, Parco Museo Santa Barbara, Mammola), and the United States (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Hawaii).

Yusuke Nakahara, Masafumi Maita, Tokyo (Japan), s.n., 1977.