To qualify as a masterpiece, an artwork must have the power to make one think, “Regardless of how many great young artists appear in the future, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to improve on this work.” Think, for example, of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel or of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. I got the same kind of feeling from Ikeda’s drawing.
——Fuse Hideto (art critic)
Inspired by the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, Rebirth (2017) is a sweeping masterpiece, the largest work by Ikeda Manabu to date—a three-by-four-meter canvas that does full justice to the artist’s paradoxical style of evoking majestic worlds through superfine detail. What appears to be a great flowering tree rising above crashing waves proves, on closer inspection, to be a mosaic of jumbled debris and flocking birds and more that together narrate the themes of life and death, hope and despair, and the power of prayer.
In this book Ikeda recounts the evolution of Rebirth over three years while in residence at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin, tracing his integration of innumerable elements that were shaped by his response to March 2011 as well as by events in his own life (including an injury to his dominant hand and the birth of two daughters). First, remove the cover and fold it out to take in the work in its entirety; then turn the pages to read along as Ikeda walks you personally through each of the picture’s fifty-two numbered sections.
Ikeda Manabu, born in 1973 in Saga Prefecture, completed undergraduate and graduate studies at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He has been based in Madison, Wisconsin, since 2013. The showing of Rebirth in Japan in 2017 was his first major exhibition.