An architect, conceptial artist and poet, Shusaku Arakawa was born in Nagoya in Japan in 1936. At the end of the 1950s, he moved to Tokyo where he studied mathematics and medicine. At the same time, he attended art school and was inspired by the western Neo-Dada movement. In the early 1960s, Arakawa moved to New York where he got to know the main exponents of the American avant-garde. During those years he created his first works with pencil on canvas and ink on photographic prints; in them, he mixed words and diagrams to explore the relationship between the body and its environment, and the processes by which man perceives and imagines. In the 1980s, along with his wife Madeline Gins, he developed the philosophy of ‘reversible destiny’, linked to the unachievable desire to overcome the aging process. In 1987, the couple founded the Architectural Body Research Foundation: in collaboration with neuroscientists, biologists, quantum physicists, Arakawa and Gins created rooms and public spaces in which residents and visitors were in constant movement; their idea was to prevent the mind from sleeping and with it, prevent death (both cerebral and physical). Until 2010, Arakawa and Gins painted large canvases that consistd of letters and numbers arranged geometrically, in which they meditated on their theory of the ‘mechanism of meaning’; these works enabled the couple to financially support their architectural projects. Arakawa died in 2010 in New York.

Arakawa’s works were exhibited at Angela Flowers Gallery in London, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Galerie Maeght in Paris and Museum of Modern Art in New York. Five of his canvases from the 1960s were shown in the exhibition “Prima Materia” (2013-15) at Punta della Dogana.

Courbet's canvas – Prima Materia