kazuo nakamura at the Gendai Gallery (Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, 6 Garamond), Saturdays to July 28. 416-441-2345. Rating: NNNN
mathematical sequences masque-rading as semi-abstract, near-monochromatic landscapes typify Kazuo Nakamura's best-known works, but at 75, the Painters Eleven co-founder (one of two still alive) is showing representational sketches he made as a teenager. An unlabelled, thin wool blanket laid across a box in the middle of the Gendai Gallery provides the key. It's one of those issued to inmates of the Tashme internment camp where Nakamura and his family were incarcerated from October 15, 1942, to November 25, 1944.
Nakamura, who had been studying drafting and mechanical drawing in high school before his internment, brought his works with him to the camp, and behind barbed wire developed his skills as a self- taught artist.
The works on view also trace his post-camp relocation first to Hamilton and then Toronto, where he studied fine art at Central Tech. There are even a few of his better-known Painters Eleven pieces, showing the direction this artist ultimately took, as well as press clippings and letters of commendation carefully displayed in glass cases.
It's appropriate that these early images get their gallery debut at the new (this is only its second show) gallery of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, an institution Nakamura helped found back in the 50s. It's being offered as a "prelude" to two major retrospectives slated for Oshawa's Robert McLaughlin Gallery this fall and the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2002.
But in this space, as in no other, the blanket spreads its chill.