Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1939, Kikuo Saito (Japanese/American, 1939-2016) moved to New York City in 1966 where he studied at the Art Students League. He pursued work in painting as a studio assistant to prominent artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Larry Poons and in set design collaborating with such theater notables as Peter Brook and Robert Wilson. During this period, Saito was known for his own poetic theater pieces comprised of wordless drama, costumes, light, music and dance. By the 1970s, Kikuo Saito concentrated primarily on painting and has been exhibiting regularly since then.
In his painting, Saito integrates the painterly with the calligraphic. Using a fully loaded brush he interweaves rich painterly gestures over delicate washes and an almost hidden grid. Occasionally, Saito includes stenciled letters which suggest an alternative way of seeing or reading and adds a sense of structure to the more unhindered abstract strokes. When working on paper, he often uses his fingers or whole hand to manipulate the medium.