Dormant Blue by Paul Horiuchi, Casin rice paper collage on canvas, 1981
As abstract expressionism was storming New York City, modern painters in the Pacific Northwest gained a reputation as "Northwest Mystics." The term, coined by Life Magazine, described a subdued palette, a sensitivity to the natural environment and the Asian influence on modern painting in the Pacific Northwest. Asian art and artists had a profound influence on the mid-century Northwest aesthetic. Mark Tobey, the learned elder of the Northwest painters developed "white writing" after traveling in China and Japan saying, "The Orient has been the greatest influence of my life." When Tobey became interested in Sumi Painting he was given a large sumi brush and sumi ink by his friend Paul Horiuchi. Seattle artist Paul Horiuchi learned sumi painting as a youth in Japan winning a national prize for his work when he was just 13 years old.
Paul Horiuchi, 1930
courtesy Paul M. Horiochi: Washington State History Link
Following his father and brother Horiochi left Japan for the United States in 1920 where he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming. His fathers death and the great depression followed by deep prejudice toward the Japanese during WWII made life in America challenging for Horiuchi but then in 1944 he moved his young family to Seattle. At first he ran a business, Horiuchi's Body and Fender Shop but he never ceased painting eventually winning prizes and showing in the Seattle Art Museum.
Color Floating in Time by Paul Horiuchi
When Horiuchi married he also converted to Catholicism, his wife's religion, and changed his name from Chikamasa to Paul taking the name Paul in honor of Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso. It was Picasso and Georges Braque, who through their cubist experiments with collage inspired Horiuchi to reflect on the Japanese art of collage going back to the 12th century when poets and calligraphers arranged torn paper into landscapes. One of Horiuchi's first great collages was inspired by seeing rain blown shredded layers of notices on a wall in Seattle's Chinatown. After a career that produced over 2,000 paintings in 1999 Paul Horiuchi died. Printed on the program for his memorial service were the words, "I have always wanted to create something serene, the peace and serenity, the quality needed to balance the sensationalism in our surroundings today. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'm seeking beauty and truth in nature. This philosophy of mine hasn't changed for the last 50 years."