Meet the 31-Year-Old Painter Beloved (and Collected) by Mark Grotjahn, Henry Taylor, and Other Blue-Chip Artists
By: Eileen Kinsella
By the time Half Gallery opened the first New York solo show of work by artist Asuka Anastacia Ogawa earlier this month, all nine paintings had already been snapped up by buyers. Ogawa herself, a tall and soft-spoken 31-year-old based between Los Angeles and New York, was on hand at the opening reception to greet well-wishers and chat about the work. Her large figurative paintings are immediately arresting, with their dark-skinned, intentionally androgynous characters positioned in ways that suggest multiple narratives—sometimes playful, sometimes ominous, often a skillful blend of both.
Just four years after receiving her BFA from Central Saint Martins in London, the Japanese-Brazilian painter has earned herself a bevy of high-profile fans and collectors, including artists Mark Grotjahn, Rashid Johnson, and Henry Taylor, all of whom have purchased her work. “When artists buy other artists’ work, that’s the biggest compliment,” Half Gallery’s Bill Powers told artnet News.
Ogawa’s swift rise began after she met Taylor, the veteran Los Angeles painter, through mutual friends. Her work caught his eye and he promptly offered her her first solo show, titled “Soup,” in an unlikely venue—his Los Angeles studio—in early 2017. Not long after that, Emily Alderman, a director at Taylor’s gallery Blum & Poe, tipped off Powers about her work.
“She said Tim Blum [one of the gallery’s co-founders] owned two paintings and thought I should meet her,” Powers recalled. Last summer, the dealer visited Ogawa at her temporary studio in Brooklyn. “I was immediately smitten by her paintings,” he said. But their collaboration didn’t come immediately. “She went to visit her grandmother in Tokyo and wound up staying five months.”
The Half Gallery show, titled “Feijão” (or “black beans” in Portuguese), remains on view through Saturday, June 29th. But if you’re thinking about buying one of the works—which range in price from $6,000 to $15,000—you can forget it. Grotjahn bought Hello, pictured below; artist Vaughn Spann, who has also shown at Half Gallery, bought Feijão, above.
Of her process, Ogawa says she typically completes preliminary drawings for larger figures, while supplemental ones, such as the baby-like figure below in Cramps or the small ghost-like figure who rests his hand on the chair in Feijão, come later. Overall, she seems comfortable letting viewers come up with their own interpretations of the evocative narratives in her work.
After her solo show at Taylor’s studio, Ogawa was included in a group show at Deli Gallery in Brooklyn last fall titled “Don’t Eat Me,” and a group show at Almine Rech in London curated by Powers titled “Early 21st Century Art.” While she does not have another solo show in the docket just yet, Powers will include one of her works at a group show at Almine Rech in Paris this fall timed to coincide with the FIAC fair. And with collectors and supporters like these, it likely won’t be long before she finds permanent gallery representation coast to coast.