Ikuko Roth

I was born Tokyo, Japan. I came to the U.S. in 1962, having obtained a Max Beckmann Scholarship to the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Before that I was painting for six years with Mr. Taro Ogui, a distinguished artist in Japan in the Ecole de Paris tradition. I mastered how to apply oil paint and participated in three Shinseisaku Annual Exhibitions ('59, '60 and '61). These are highly professional artists“ juried shows.

Why did I come to America? Around the late 50s and early 60s, Japan was finally recovering from its war wounds. Ordinary citizens could travel abroad. Many artists sought success abroad, especially in New York.

I learned abstract expressionism at Brooklyn Museum Art School where I was enrolled from 1962 through 1964. My painting in Japan was using the figure, but just as an element in the composition of the whole picture plane. That is already half way to abstraction, so I could get into abstract expressionism without much conflict. Soon I could handle big (6'x 6') canvases in the abstract expressionistic style. I had a one person show at the BMAS gallery in 1965.

I married Richard Roth in 1963 and two sons were born in '64 and '65. In 1967 I went back to Japan with the whole family until 1969. Between '65 and '69, caring for the babies, I couldn“t paint at all. When my husband Richard was accepted in the MFA program at Florida State University we went to Tallahassee. I found a little time to paint, but because of the discontinuity of four years, I couldn“t paint the abstraction which I had once achieved at the BMAS. I had to start with something to watch, so I started doing landscape.

There was no gallery or museum in Tallahassee in 1970. I was bored so I decided to enroll also for an MFA ('71, '72). I wanted to expand my media capability so I chose graphics and silkscreen while continuing oil painting of landscapes myself.

FSU brought me up to date on all the movements that followed abstract expressionism. I did “Enigma of the American Election” and “Munch in Ireland.” These had political pop and surrealistic elements. I combined onto canvas photosensitive emulsion, and silkscreen and collage. After graduating I came back to New York. I included these works in the 55 Mercer Street Gallery Invitational Show reviewed by Peter Frank in the Art News of September '73. Although the review encouraged me in this direction, Pop Art and political satire are not my nature.

In the 70s and the 80s I came back fully to landscapes. From the Maine coast rock structure I learned topographic structure- composition and natural color“s abundance of interpretation possibilities. From '74 to '88 I came back to the same spot at Pemaquid Point, Maine for a couple of weeks almost every year. I am basically an outdoor painter, however my landscape is not rendering. I get inspiration from nature, and work quickly. I will execute outdoors a 30"x40" canvas in about six hours broken into two sessions. Usually it would then be about 80% done. After coming home from our trip I will do the finishing touches keeping the outdoor feeling. This finishing touch manner I mastered from my abstraction. So my landscape is a blend of outdoor atmosphere and abstraction.

Cezanne got inspiration from nature and developed modern painting. He stood at the entrance to abstraction but he refused to enter. I feel the same way. Visual art must check (balance) the outside world and inner necessity.

When I first came to NYC in '62 its scenery attracted me as subject matter, but I went into abstraction. However, in the 80s, as a landscape painter, in the colder months I made more than 100 22"x 30" watercolors of New York City scenery. I executed the views from high windows, usually offices of big law firms. I developed the system that whatever I saw I drew, everything at that spot that my naked eye caught, almost 180' to compress onto one sheet of paper. Office managers allowed me to do the work over several days until I finished. It usually took about 30 hours. These watercolors helped support us in the 80s. I could sell them for a good price in Japan and I made lithograph versions which I sold in New York. I considered this work artistically interesting as well as profitable, but in recent years I have stopped doing it because of eye strain.

Since the 90s I have continued to paint outdoors. For five years I was fascinated by waterfalls. It“s the same interest in rock structure that I had in the Maine coast paintings but now the structure is dramatized by the flow of water. In the summer of 1996 I did a series of mountain views in the Pacific northwest region. Since then I“ve done work in the New England countryside.

In 1999 and 2000 I had the rare opportunity to paint in Italy and the south of France. It was so special because I was moved to integrate human habitation with nature.

Two years ago I discovered “flowers” in my old age. In the Massachusetts State Park at the Mt Holyoke Range at the Notch, I was astonished how the whole valley bloomed with Mountain Laurel. Tiny pink flowers but bunched together making many nuances of pink.. Unlike cherry blossoms Mountain Laurel is a shrub, thin wire like stems are almost hidden with flowers. I wanted to paint this mass of flowers in the valley, and also individual close ups.