Kazuo Nakamura’s Untitled (1956) is a superb example of his Block Structure paintings. Abstract in its geometrical simplification and futuristic in its spare composition, Untitled presents the viewer with a bizarre, illusionistic architectural landscape. Seemingly lit from above by dramatic, raking light, two stark geometric towers can be seen in the far distance through a latticed structure composed of an arrangement of horizontal and vertical rectangular openings. Nakamura purposely resists the use of a single vanishing point—the key element of traditional perspective theory—instead creating multiple lines of sight. This gives the viewer the impression of a constant, subtle shift between three-dimensional and two-dimensional worlds. A testament to Nakamura’s career-long study of the interrelation among mathematics, science, and aesthetics, Untitled is a visual representation of his in-depth investigation into the ways in which form and dimension are linked.
Created during a two-year period from 1956 to 1958, Nakamura’s Block Structure paintings were among the most strikingly avant-garde works of their time. As Gary Michael Dault writes, they were “flat, before American colour-field painting made flatness imperative in vanguard art, and minimal before there was an official Minimalist movement” (Globe and Mail, “Kazuo Nakamura’s Lucky Numbers,” 15 May 1999). Whereas Nakamura’s String and Inner Structure paintings from the same period depicted microcosmic views of the world, the Block Structure paintings revealed a macrocosmic view of a world in which tall geometric towers punctuate barren planar landscapes. For Nakamura, who was deeply interested in societal advancement through scientific and technological development, “these structures seem to project our own time toward a future of stacked-tower environments” (Nowell, Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art, Douglas & McIntyre, 2010).