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  • Sep 07, 2020

Obituary: Noriyuki Haraguchi (1946–2020)

Mono-ha artist

Noriyuki Haraguchi, an influential artist of the Mono-ha movement best known for his installations made from industrial materials, has passed away on August 27 at the age of 74. The cause of death was undisclosed.

Haraguchi was born in 1946 in Yokosuka, the headquarter of the United States Navy’s Seventh Fleet. Shortly after graduating from the department of fine arts at Tokyo’s Nihon University with a major in oil painting in 1970, he became involved with the Mono-ha movement, emphasizing on the reinterpretation and repurposing of everyday materials and objects. His early works referenced and reimagined heavy wartime weapons, such as Battleship Ref. A (1966), which recreates a navy battleship using paper and lacquer, and Air Pipes (1968–69), which features acrylic-covered plywood reliefs modeled on the exhaust pipes of US military jets. He returned to this form in 2011 with A-7 E Corsair II—a hollowed-out, full-scale replica of an eponymous US warplane from the Vietnam War handcrafted from wood, aluminum, and canvas with graphite sketches. Tilted on its side like a beached whale, the plane is lifted from its deadly context and reinterpreted as a gentle, ethereal sculpture.

Haraguchi would also go on to develop a fascination with materials and surfaces. In 1978, he began creating works from polyurethane, a material used to protect floors in hospitals and schools in Japan, mixing paint from the transparent liquid to cover canvases and boxes. In 1977, he was the first Japanese artist to exhibit at Kassel’s Documenta 6 with his steel sculpture, Oil Pool (1977), containing oil waste; in the same year, he exhibited at the 10th Biennale de Paris. A version of the work titled Matter and Mind (1977) was installed in the lower atrium of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, and 40 years later he was invited back to Iran in order to restore the piece.

Haraguchi  held his first international solo show in 1978 at the Galerie Alfred Schmela in Dusseldorf and continued to hold solo exhibitions internationally, including in 2001 at Munich’s Städtische Galerie, in 2009 at Yokohama’s BankART1929 Studio NYK, and in 2015 at New York’s Fergus McCaffrey gallery. He has also exhibited internationally in group exhibitions, including at the Hamburger Kunsthalle in 2007 and at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2012, among others.

His final solo exhibition, “wall to wall Noriyuki Haraguchi,” at the newly built √K Contemporary (Root K Contemporary) in Tokyo commemorated the gallery’s opening in March and featured several of his iron and polyurethane works, as well as Oil Pool.

Fion Tse is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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