Vibrant colors, nature scenes, and utter precision are what you’ll see in the “Under the Stars” exhibit by local artist Hiro Takeshita in the upper gallery of the Hoboken Historical Museum.
While Takeshita’s work may look painted, he explores the traditional Japanese art of cut paper called Kirie.
According to Takeshita, Kirie, also known as Kirigami, is typically done in black and white, but Takeshita uses the technique with a modern twist using brightly hued paper and an exacto knife.
The images are created using several layers of precisely cut paper. The painstaking work takes weeks, sometimes months, from concept design through final execution.
The result? One cohesive image exploring and appreciating the beauty of nature.
Hiro Takeshita was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1947.
From an early age, he was interested in art and nature. In elementary school in Japan, he and his classmates would often garden, planting and watering plants while occasionally cleaning out debris and broken glass left over from the atomic bomb that destroyed much of the city in 1945.
In the early 1970s, Takeshita moved to Tokyo to study art at Ochanomizu Art School and fashion drawing at The Setsu Mode Seminar School. After that, he began working as a print maker in Tokyo, apprenticing at the Atelier Dori.
In 1977, Takeshita came to the United States, first Los Angeles and then New York City. He said he decided to move to the United States after a long fascination with the country and its people.
He remembered the kindness of American soldiers who would play with him and his friends and offer them candy. He also loved the American television shows he watched as a child, particularly “I Love Lucy.”
In the mid 1980s Takeshita made his way across the river to Hoboken after leaving his studio in New York City’s meat market district on West 14th Street.
Now he works out of a studio on the west side of Hoboken, near Second and Madison streets.
Takeshita’s art has been appreciated in cities around the world. It has been showcased in Cape Canaveral and in galleries in New York City, where he contributes to the Japanese Artists Association of New York’s annual exhibit.
He created the Frick Museum’s annual Christmas card in 2001, and his paper cuttings were displayed on the sides of streetcars throughout Nagasaki in 2006.
Takeshita said he originally focused on oil paintings and pastel drawings influenced by French impressionist painters such as Claude Monet and Édouard Manet. Later he gravitated toward Henri Matisse’s bright colors. Matisse, like himself, was once a print maker.
He later became fascinated with Abstract Expressionistic painters and pop artists from the 1960s like Richard Diebenkorn and Andy Warhol.
He said it wasn’t until the late 1990s while in Hoboken that he started to experiment with Kirie, focusing on subjects ranging from everyday objects, such as a lamppost or a snapshot of a home, to gardens and familiar Hoboken scenes.
Before selecting colors or picking up the razor-sharp exacto knife, Takeshita begins with a sketch, first taking time to create the image he wants to depict. He said this can often take a day or several days before he’s satisfied with it.
He finds the right colors and paper before taking the knife to paper. Every cut must be precise in order for the image to appear seamless and true to the original sketch. It’s then layered and glued into place.
Takeshita said it takes time, but the result is worth it.
Nature is paramount in the 11 works included in “Under the Stars.”
“I was inspired by the joyful colors of the freshly bloomed flowers and trees in the city parks and backyards,” he said, noting that he wanted to share that beauty with others through his art.
He hopes his art encourages people to be concerned about climate change and pollution.
“I hope people can look at these flowers and be inspired to protect them so that future generations can enjoy them too,” said Takeshita. “We only have one Earth.”
The exhibit will remain on view through July 28. It’s supported by a block grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
To find more of his work go to www.hirotakeshita.com.