Kumi Sugai


Kumi Sugai (1919-1996) was an influential painter and printmaker, with a vibrant aesthetic that was defined by his unique ability to mix Japanese technical qualities with abstract modern forms.

Sugai studied at the Osaka School of the Fine Arts where his lessons included not only Japanese, but western painting techniques as well. Calligraphy training and his personal fascination with typography during this time would prove to be significant in the development of his future work such as the "S" series. Sugai left Osaka before graduating to take a job as a graphic designer for the Hankyu Railway Company in 1937. It would be 15 years later, at the age of 33, that he would move to Paris and begin studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere.


From the "S" Series:


His initial work was done in ukiyo-e, a Japanese form of woodblock printing that culminated in melodramatic scenes and brilliant colors. Warm and lively color would be a key characteristic of Sugai's work even as he was heavily influenced by the Abstract Expressionist, Minimalist and Pop Art movements he would encounter in Paris. Despite falling out of favor with the majority of the Ecole de Paris in the 70's, Sugai would continue working and showing until his death in Kobe, Japan.