Tadashi Sato (1923-2005)
Lava Field, 1987
Oil on Canvas
47 ½”H x 95 ¾”W
Lava Fields by TADASHI SATO (1923-2005) is a cubist-informed contemporary landscape painting rooted in abstract expressionism. Like much of the mystery present in Sato’s other work, there is an ambiguity as to whether these fractal shapes represent light, in space or in time or all three elements simultaneously. A foreground represented in large angular pieces of light grey tones, fades into darker smaller pieces of black, suggesting a projection further into space and distance from the viewer. At the same time, black shards of shapes bubble up to form a jagged horizon line meeting a blue sky that closely resembles the silhouette of a lava field landscape on the Big Island.
The piece is made up of mostly triangles, with three larger prominent triangles emerging from all of the smaller triangles. Upon a closer tracing of the lines, the large triangles at the horizon reach all the way down diagonally to the bottom of the canvas, conflicting with the perception of a scene that portrays distance between a foreground and a background composition. The triangles fixed atop the two prominent triangles on the right side seem to directionally point left, while the prominent triangle on the left has a triangle directionally pointing right. Whether understood as volcanoes with smoke traveling in a certain direction by the wind or shadows of lava rock abstractly reflecting into the sky, there is a strong gravitational pull and sense of groundedness that is unique to this piece taken in the context of Sato’s other work. The symbolic significance of a triangle and the powerful energy of Pele is present throughout this piece.
Painted in 1987, this work represents the artist’s revisitation to a style more characteristic of his previous years in New York City. Sato had worked closely with artist Ralston Crawford who had introduced him to modernist painter Stuart Davis. He eventually let go of hard-edged abstractions of the Precisionists and the cubist-inspired abstractions of Davis, but retained their predilection for depicting flattened forms in space.