Sakuradamon, Tokyo, 1964
Gift of Ted and Marcia Marks in memory of Emily Howe Marks
Sakuradamon, Tokyo illustrates one of the gates of the Edo Castle, part of the historic fortification that was first constructed in the 15th century. In 1860 this was the site of the assassination of Ii Naosuke, a powerful political figure, by anti-government protesters who opposed the treaty to open up trade with the West. Saitō channels cultural tensions of his own time between Asian and Western influences through a range of aesthetic decisions. Compositionally, he manipulates the landscape by constraining space and uses a top-down perspective in order to collapse foreground and background into a single plane. The dark and earthy hues and embossed texture are used to fill in simple, abstract shapes that form the scene. The vast space of the gate’s exterior contrasted with the compressed interior creates a sense of distance, evoking feelings of longing and nostalgia. Through the abstraction of this landscape, Saitō connects his conflicted artistic identity with the historical and cultural clash of the landscape.