Arakawa, Waiting Voices, 1976–77, acrylic, varnish, pencil, and art marker on canvas and linen, 70 × 96 inches (177.8 × 243.8 cm) © 2016 Estate of Madeline Gins. Reproduced with permission of the Estate of Madeline Gins.
Renowned for his paintings, drawings, and prints, as well as his innovative architectural constructions, Arakawa was one of the earliest practitioners of the international Conceptual art movement of the 1960s. After moving to New York from Japan in 1961, Arakawa produced diagrammatic paintings, drawings, and other conceptual works that employed systems of words and signs to both highlight and investigate the mechanics of human perception and knowledge. In 1962, Arakawa met American poet Madeline Gins, with whom he developed a personal and creative partnership. Together they expanded Arakawa’s painting practice into an important series entitled The Mechanism of Meaning, a suite of eighty canvases that explored the workings of human consciousness. The Mechanism of Meaning exists in two versions that were exhibited in their entirety by the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa in 1988 and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1997. In the 1990s, Arakawa and Gins developed the theory of “procedural architecture” to further impact on human lives. Through architecture specifically, they endeavored to “learn how not to die.” Terming this concept “reversible destiny,” they believed firmly in the capacity of their architectural works to positively influence the personal well-being and longevity of those who lived within them. Arakawa and Gins dedicated the remainder of their lives to seeing these ideas integrated into architectural theory and contemporary building methods.
Arakawa was born in 1936 in Nagoya, Japan, and died in 2010 in New York. He attended the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Arakawa’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout North America, Western Europe and Japan. Major retrospectives include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. His work is featured in institutional collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, as well as in numerous private and corporate collections. Arakawa represented Japan in the 35th Biennale di Venezia in 1970, and was included in Documenta IV (1968) and Documenta VI (1977).