Wall of Kyoto, 1960
Gift of Ted and Marcia Marks
Built in 1591 at the behest of the warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Wall of Kyoto was one of many reconstruction efforts after years of war. It proved to be a very weak defense. By contrast, Saitō’s abstract representation of the wall creates a strong visual obstruction through its constrained view, making the subject of this print ambiguous and mysterious. The composition harmonizes geometric division of space with the contrast of smooth and grainy texture, flattening architectural space into an abstraction. The neutral tones of black, grey, and dark red allow the print’s pebbly and grained texture to come into view as a primary feature. The dark colors of the wall suggest an inherently mysterious time of day—perhaps dusk—as the wall is still visible but casts heavy shadows. As in other prints, Saitō weds European-inspired modern abstraction with Japanese-inspired areas of flat color, an articulation of the contemporary relevance of his historic surroundings.