Takao Iijima (born May 19, 1931), better known by his art name Ay-O, (靉嘔) is a Japanese artist who has been associated with Fluxus since its international beginnings in the 1960s.
Probably, the best reference to understand the early years of Ay-O is the autobiographical retrospective book in the references "Ay-O, Over the Rainbow, Ay-O Retrospective 1950-2006." In a nutshell: Ay-O started his career in the Demokrato Artist Association (デモクラート美術家協会), created by Ei-Q. This association promoted artistic freedom and independence in making art. The influence of these values with Ay-O can be seen in a series of early paintings over which he painted a large X because he thought they were not original enough. Another independent movement was close to Democrato in Japan: Sōzō Biiku (創造美育) by the collector Sadajirō Kubo (久保貞次郞） promoting nurturing freedom when teaching art. Both movements started Fukui Prefecture in Japan and explain the special bound Ay-O developed with the Fukui Prefecture. Sōzō Biiku's approach is a challenge of the traditional Japanese Master-Student relationship. As such, like naive art, the movement promotes ways independent to the culturally established ones. Kubo also created the "Small Collector Society" (小コレクターの会) to spread art collection in society. Some of the works from this period in the 50s show an influence from Fernand Léger with massive bodies on the canvas (like for example the massive (1.83mx3.7m) Pastoral (Den'en) from 1956 ).
Ay-O was introduced to George Maciunas by Yoko Ono in 1961 and formally joined Maciunas in Fluxus in 1963. Ay-O was known for his Finger Boxes and for his performance events when he was active in Fluxus. He worked closely with fellow Fluxus artists Maciunas, Emmett Williams, Dick Higgins and Nam June Paik. Ay-O and Nam June Paik were roommates (and became friends) in this Soho fluxus style coop at the time.
Ay-O established a reputation in the avant-gardes of Japan, Europe and the United States. In Japan, he is known as the "Rainbow Man" for his use of colorful, rainbow-striped motifs in his artwork. In its purest form, some paintings are simple gradations of the rainbow, with up to 192 gradations.
Ay-O represented Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1966 and at the São Paulo Biennale in 1971. He also built the famed "Tactile Rainbow" at the Osaka World's Fair in 1970. In 1971, true to his Demokato debut, he adapted 10 American Naïve paintings and created a rainbow version that he called Nashville Skyline. Ay-O's attachment to Douanier Rousseau's work is another proof of his interest for naïve art. In 1987 he did a series of Rainbow Happenings, with Rainbow Happening #17 being a 300m Rainbow Eiffel Tower project in Paris. As a rainbow artist Ay-O's work embraces abstraction more decisively than in his previous period, and human form when present in a rainbow context becomes itself abstract. One special work from the period 8:15 A.M. (1988), done for Hiroshima's MOCA represents the explosion with his Rainbow palette .
One of his projects in English was a Collective Portrait of George Maciuanas, that he co-edited with Emmett Williams and Ann Noel. In the recent decade Ay-O has exhibited regularly at the Emily Harvey Gallery in (1996, 2001) and Gallery Itsutsuji (1996,2005,2007,2012) and Gallery Goto (1999,2004) in Japan. In Japan Ay-O is part of the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and Kyoto (see 2005 Tokyo exhibition in the links). In 2001 Ay-O had a room in the special exhibit "La fluxus Constellation" in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Genoa. He was also represented in various other Fluxus exhibitions around the world as "Centraal Fluxus Festival" Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2003), "Fluxus & Non Fluxus Fluxus" Randers kunstmuseum (2006). Being present at both the Venice Biennale in 1966 and at the São Paulo Biennale in 1971, Ay-O was one of the "Twelve Japanese Artists from the Venice Biennale 1952-2001," in Art Tower Mito ATM, Mito. At the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Ay-O was part of two exhibitions: "Tokyo-Berlin / Berlin-Tokyo" in 2005 and "All about laughter" in 2007. Finally in 2012 the MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TOKYO (MOT) showed a large retrospective exhibition: "Over the Rainbow once more."   This was followed by the retrospective being shown at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art through to 14.1.2013.. The 300m Rainbow from Happening #17 was part of the show . Hiroshima's MOCA exhibit was the occasion of one more happening performed by Ay-O and his team : a Fluxus revival performance, succession of 30 shorts representing each a different Fluxus artists Video on YouTube. This was Ay-O's way to celebrate the 50's birthday of Fluxus, and a Japanese echo the Wiesbaden events . In 2012 the MOMA produced an exhibit titled : Tokyo 1955-1970 Avant Garde where Ay-O's work in that period are presented.
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