Oscar Oiwa Journey to the Light

2019.4.27(Sat.) - 2019.8.25(Sun.)



2019.4.27(Sat.) - 2019.8.25(Sun.)
10:00 - 18:00 (until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)


21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Galleries 7-12, 14, others


Mondays (Open on April 29, May 6, July 15, August 12), May 7 (Tue), July 16 (Tue)

Adult: ¥1,200 (¥1,000)
University: ¥800 (¥600)
Elem/ JH/ HS: ¥400 (¥300)
65 and over: ¥1,000

[Combi ticket: “
AWAZU Kiyoshi: What Can Design Do?” (5/18-8/25)]
Adult: ¥2,000 (¥1,600)
University: ¥1,400 (¥1,100)
Elem/ JH/ HS: ¥700 (¥600)
65 and over: ¥1,600

*( ) indicate advance ticket and group rates (20 or more).

Ticket Sales:

◯ Ticket PIA (Tel +81-(0)570-02-9999
  [Exhibition ticket P code] 769-551
  [Combi ticket P code] 769-548
◯ Lawson Ticket (Tel +81-(0)570-000-777
  [Exhibition ticket L code] 55333
  [Combi ticket P code] 55342

For More Information:

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Phone: +81-76-220-2800

With brilliant, light-filled colors and dynamic spatial structures, Oscar OIWA creates vivid depictions of contemporary society that are infused with critical and humorous qualities. Born in São Paulo, Brazil to Japanese parents in 1965, Oiwa splits his time between Tokyo and New York, making works that share both the perspective of an ordinary urban dweller and an objective bird’s eye view. Addressing themes such as the cities and societies he inhabits and environmental problems, Oiwa freely integrates photographs, printed matter, and images from the Internet to realize a unique worldview that wavers between reality and fantasy, artifice and nature, and light and shadow. This exhibition explores Oiwa’s vision through a collection of approximately 60 works, with an emphasis on recent efforts, and a 27-meter-long drawing executed on a wall in the museum. In addition, the composer Chad CANNON was invited to take part in a collaborative project, in which Oiwa’s work served as the inspiration for a magnificent symphony that coalesces with the paintings. With any luck, the light that Oiwa pursues in his work while traveling all over the world will reawaken a sense of hope, helping us deal with the difficulty of living in the current era.

Related Projects

A talk by Oscar Oiwa on his solo exhibition at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Date/time: April 18 (Thur) 19:00–20:30
Venue: Embassy of Brazil in Japan auditorium
Admission: Free
Bookings: cultural.toquio@itamaraty.gov.br
(Cultural Section of the Embassy of Brazil in Japan)

Oscar Oiwa: Artist Talks

Date/time: April 27 (Sat)
14:00–15:30 (doors open 13:30)
Guest: Emile Tsuru-Devaux (Japanese Brazilian Art Researcher)
17:00–19:00 (doors open 16:30)
Guest: Chad Cannon (Composer)
Venue: Lecture Hall, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Seats: 80
Admission: Free, no booking necessary
*content subject to change

MIYAZAWA Kazufumi on Brazilian culture: Talk, poetry reading, and solo concert

Date/time: June 28 (Fri) 19:00 (doors open 18:30)
Venue: Theater 21, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Seats: 160
Admission: ¥5,000 on sale from April 27 (Sat)


  • Oscar Oiwa

    Born in 1965 in São Paulo, Brazil. Graduated in 1989 from the University of São Paulo, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Oiwa moved his base to Tokyo in 1991. He lived and worked in London in 1995 as artist in residence awarded by the Delfina Studio Trust, and was recipient of a grant from Asian Cultural Council and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2001. In 2002 he relocated to New York, where he remains based today. Major exhibitions include the 21st International Biennial of São Paulo in 1991, “Oscar Oiwa: The Garden of Eden” (Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo) in 1998, “Oscar Oiwa: The Dreams of a Sleeping World” (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo) in 2008, and “Oscar Oiwa” (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro) in 2011, and “Beyond the End: Ruins in Art History” (Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo) in 2018 among many others.

  • Artist Statement

    The painter’s job has nothing to do with how well you can paint or your technique. It’s an inner struggle to express an idea on the picture plane. The tools you use are pretty simple – paints, brushes, and canvases that anyone could buy. Over many years of painting, I have continually faced the difficult challenge of how I could use these simple materials to make something great.

    Oscar Oiwa

Exhibition Composition

  • Ghost Ship 2014
    Oil on canvas
    227 × 666 cm
    Collection of the artist

    Chapter 1. Waves in New York City

    A resident of New York since 2002, Oiwa follows a daily routine like that of a regular office worker, taking the subway to his studio every morning, returning home in the evening and staying up late working on his computer. He paints the city he lives in, New York, and the “World Wide Web Wave” series depicts the invisible electromagnetic waves that flow through the streets. In Ghost Ship, which has as its motif the ruins along the Hudson River, a massive ship floats on waves against a backdrop of New York at night.

  • Big Circus 2011
    Oil on canvas
    227 × 333 cm 
    Collection of the artist

    Chapter 2. (Dis)United States of America

    Oiwa moved to New York in 2002, the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when, in contrast to his peaceful everyday life, America began fighting in Iran and Afghanistan. This was followed by the 2008 financial crisis, and while there was a glimmer of “hope” when Obama was elected president, it was short-lived, with the turmoil in America worsening under the Trump administration. Having observed this state of affairs, it is as if Oiwa is trying to bring the political and social chaos into the open by dealing with such familiar subjects as barbecues, circuses and dreams.

  • Kita-Senju 2010
    Oil on canvas
    227 × 444 cm 
    Collection of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

    Chapter 3. Life as an Eternal Journey

    Oiwa has constantly been on the move, from São Paulo, where he was born and raised, to Tokyo where he lived for eleven years from 1991, and then to New York. In this sense one could say his life itself is a journey. And the scenes and motifs he has observed in each location have been incorporated into his artworks. Various places—from the Kita-Senju district of Tokyo that retains the atmosphere of a shitamachi (old town), and the Setouchi island of Ogijima, to other Asian countries—are depicted in a way that creates a somehow nostalgic atmosphere. His many charming drawings also lend color to individual moments in his life of travel.

  • Mushroom Forest 2016
    Oil on canvas
    227 × 555 cm 
    Collection of the artist

    Chapter 4. A Very Imperfect World

    Having observed since his childhood in São Paulo how things go wrong in the world, Oiwa has used as themes in his works environmental problems such as air and sea pollution as well as the absurdities surrounding natural disasters. His canvases, which are brightly colored and filled with light despite the weightiness of these themes, appear to contain a glimmer of hope. In this chapter, we attempt to marry a magnificent symphony created by composer Chad Cannon in response to Oiwa’s work with the paintings that inspired it.

  • Vortex 2018
    227 × 333 cm 
    Oil and composition silver leaf on canvas
    Collection of the artist

    Chapter 5. Aiming for Light

    “Light” is the most important theme in Oiwa’s works. After learning that the human eye contains two types of cells—cone cells, which make out colors and shapes in strong light, and rod cells, which are more sensitive and allow us to make out shapes in the dark but not colors—Oiwa was inspired to make use of the latter in the presentation of his paintings. Paintings created using a range of media to express light, such as composition gold and silver leaf, glitter and LED lights, can be viewed inside this darkened gallery.

  • Five Nests 2012
    227 × 555 cm 
    Oil on canvas
    Collection of the artist

    Chapter 6. After All, We Remain Hopeful

    The exhibition concludes with a selection of works filled with light employing such colors as green, blue and yellow. The settings vary and include a tropical rain forest in the Amazon, a river in São Paulo and a forest whose location is unidentifiable, but each work is drenched in a soft light that seems to envelope the viewer. It could be said that the new work created for this exhibition, Journey to the Light, exquisitely embodies Oiwa’s approach, which the artist himself summed up when he stated, “in order to become happy, it’s important to cultivate the light I’m aiming for myself.”

  • Conceptual drawing

    New drawing Woods on a 27-meter-long wall

    To date, Oscar Oiwa has executed large-scale wall drawing at the Setouchi Triennale (2010 Ogijima, 2013 Ibukijima, 2016 Shodoshima), Embassy of Brazil in Japan (2017) and Japan House São Paulo (2018). For this exhibition, he will spent some two weeks at the Museum executing a forest-themed drawing on a massive 4.5-meter-high by 27-meter-long wall of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. Experience for yourself the overwhelming scale of this work!

Exhibition Catalogue

  • Oscar Oiwa: Journey to the Light

    • “An Attachment to this Life,” MIYAZAWA Kazufumi (Singer-songwriter)
    • “Oscar Oiwa, or the Aesthetics of Inversion,” Emile Tsuru-Devaux (PhD, Kyoto University Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies / Japanese Brazilian Art Researcher)
    • “When the Light Meets the Dark,” YOKOYAMA Yukiko (Assistant Curator, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa)
    Publisher: Kyuryudo Art Publishing
    Scheduled release: April 2019
    ISBN: 78-4-7630-1914-1 C0071
    Price: ¥2,963 (tax excluded)



Organized by:

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Kanazawa Art Promotion and Development Foundation)

Supported by:
Embassy of Brazil in Japan

JAPAN AIRLINES, Kuretake Co., Ltd.

Grants from:
Nomura Foundation