Rakuko Naito and Tadaaki Kuwayama were born and raised in Japan. They studied nihonga in art school, the traditional form of Japanese painting on paper or silk using natural pigments. They married and moved to the United States in 1958, which is when other notable Japanese artists, such as Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono, also moved to the US.
Living and working in New York, Naito and Kuwayama moved away from traditional Japanese painting and the gestural Abstract Expressionist painting that dominated the art world at that time. In the 1960s, both artists went in similar, yet distinct directions with respect to their art making practices. Initially using oil paints and then later acrylic, metallic and spray paints with tape and hard edges, Naito removed the artist's hand to create flat, optical paintings that explored visual perception. These paintings were vibrating and eye-popping with bold colors, crisp edges and dizzying patterns. Tadaaki also used acrylic paints and removed the artist's hand from his painting, but his work was more reductive and explored large geometric blocks of brightly colored paints. Later, he began to divide the canvas into squares and rectangles that were framed with aluminum and industrial materials and reassembled into a single structure. His surfaces were pristine and the shapes were repeated perfectly like building blocks. There was and continued to be a cool, reductive and serene quality to his artwork.
Rakuko Naito’s work is held in the Miami-Dade Community College, Miami, Florida; Kemper Art Collection, Chicago; Roland Gibson Art Foundation, State University of New York at Potsdam, New York; and Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Massachusetts. She was an artist in Residence at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in 2003. She continues to explore the possibilities of different materials, and in her recent works she frequently uses Japanese paper.
Kuwayama has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at venues such as Green Gallery (1965, 1966); Tokyo Gallery (1967); Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich (1967); Museum Folkwang, Essen, West Germany (1974); Institute of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1976); Akira Ikeda Gallery, Nagoya, Japan (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1988); Nagoya City Art Museum (1989, 2006, 2010); Museum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt, Germany (1997); and National Museum of Art, Osaka (2011). His work has been presented in such group exhibitions as Systemic Painting, Guggenheim Museum (1966); Constructivism and the Geometric Tradition, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (1979), which traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1980), Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute (1981), and Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (1981); and The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989, Guggenheim Museum (2009). He won a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1969) and an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant (1986).