Shusaku Arakawa (荒川 修作 Arakawa Shūsaku, July 6, 1936 – May 18, 2010) who spoke of himself as an “eternal outsider” and “abstractionist of the distant future,” first studied mathematics and medicine at the University of Tokyo, and art at the Musashino Art University. He was a member of Tokyo’s Neo-Dadaism Organizers, a precursor to The Neo-Dada movement. Arakawa’s early works were first displayed in the infamous Yomiuri Independent Exhibition, a watershed event for postwar Japanese avant-garde art.
Arakawa arrived in New York in 1961 with fourteen dollars in his pocket and a telephone number for Marcel Duchamp, whom he phoned from the airport and over time formed a close friendship. He started using diagrams within his paintings as philosophical propositions. Jean-Francois Lyotard has said of Arakawa’s work that it “makes us think through the eyes,” and Hans-Georg Gadamer has described it as transforming “the usual constancies of orientation into a strange, enticing game—a game of continually thinking out.” Quoting Paul Celan, Gadamer also wrote of the work: “There are songs to sing beyond the human.” Arthur Danto has found Arakawa to be “the most philosophical of contemporary artists.” For his part, Arakawa has declared: “Painting is only an exercise, never more than that.”