The Ink Wash Paintings of Shozo Sato

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A graceful plum tree in full flower sits under a full moon. The sky is inky black but the moonlight makes each blossom seem to glow with inner light.
Shozo Sato, Spring Has Come for the Aging Plum Tree, n.d. Two-panel folding screen; sumi ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist


A wide, stormy landscape in greys and blacks. Boiling storm clouds sweep toward a rocky shore while a single tree clings to the rocks and is whipped by the wind.
Shozo Sato, Fury of the Pacific, 1994. Sumi ink and silver pigment on paper mounted on board. Courtesy of the artist.

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An older Japanese man with white hair and glasses stands near calligraphy he has created. He is in a room with an ink wash painting of a windswept landscape behind him. He is the artist, Shozo Sato.
Shozo Sato. Photo by Jarvis Kim of Adjacency. Courtesy of Japan House at the University of Illinois.

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The old, gnarled, heavily pruned trunk of a weeping plum tree sits on a golden field under a golden sky. Pink blossoms are just emerging on the few sparse branches that remain.
Shozo Sato, Weeping Plum, 1990s. Two-panel folding screen; sumi ink and 25k gold on paper. Courtesy of the artist.


On view
Mar 2, 2023 to Dec 22, 2023
Main Level, Contemporary Gallery

An exhibition of rarely exhibited ink wash paintings by artist, author, Japan House founder, and professor emeritus Shozo Sato.

From the early twentieth century, the United States has been home to artists interested in Nihonga: paintings made in accordance with traditional Japanese conventions, materials, and techniques.  Early US practitioners and advocates include Taikan Yokoyama and Tenshin Okakura, who visited Boston from Japan around 1904, and Chiura Obata, who arrived in San Francisco in 1903.

Born in 1933, Shozo Sato belongs to a later generation of sumi-e or ink wash artists. He worked in the Midwest and on the West Coast, arriving at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in 1964, where he developed a rich and varied artistic practice. Sato is professor emeritus of the School of Art and Design, the founder of Japan House, and a former artist-in-residence at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. 

Well known for his contributions to Japanese living arts such as ikebana and tea ceremony, Sato’s ink wash paintings have never previously been the object of scholarly scrutiny.  These paintings celebrate Sato’s enduring and thoughtful engagement with vistas of the American Southwest, American West, and childhood memories of Osaka and Hiroshima during World War II.

Curated by Maureen Warren, Curator of European and American Art

Supported by Joyce Chelberg. Co-sponsored by Japan House at Illinois.

spiral bound page that has a grid of red markings with two circular fields, one gold and the other red and white. On each field is a rectangle.
  1. Feb 2, 2023 to Dec 22, 2023