In the vanguard of visual design, Awazu Kiyoshi (1929-2009) remains a tough specter. Jabbing elbows and knees into the outer membrane of commercial practice, spilling smugly into interstices of perception.
In an empire of thought where design has been concerned mainly with solving a set of communication problems, and art too often occupies itself with signifying/serving critical discourse or chasing a purity of gesture, Awazu was content to braid the hair of the sirens. First a moment of intimidating precision, next a flood of almost abjectly emotional concentra, always cleansed and emulsified with a Zen omnipresence. Jarring simplicity at times gives way to a scuba safari of layered zones populated with endless friendly and menacing details.
Recalcitrant motherfucker as he was (completely self-taught), we see Awazu build his own torch from scratch in the beginning. Slipping through the owning hands of the agencies, he worked solo and uninfatuated by job offers. In fact, the only position he accepted was late in life as the director of the Toppan Printing Corporation’s Printing Museum. While other Japanese modernists were rendering plotter-perfect curves and intersections, he didn’t see the point. He continued into the meat mountains, gushing ink tirades, crunchy ceramic strata, spiritual structures, compounding fungi, smiling at his own hand. During the 80s with the tyranny of the photograph and its ranks of pink glass models and airbrushed azure horizons, Awazu gave no fucks and built his forms without the crutch of the full-page photo. When he did use cameras, it was usually to capture and re-imagine scraps of previous work into hazy memory nightmares, wisps escaping from the medicine bag. Awazu Kiyoshi was never concerned with the cultural timing of his dreams. He always seemed to unleash modes of operation far removed from the vogueing disciplines. In any realm of thought, seeing was creating, and vice versa.
“Expectation means a holiday for our eyes and our spirits which are trying to see things.”
Right along with his blazing handwork, Awazu wielded typographic and layout precision with total dominance. One-two punch and a swan song.
This shit gives me chills. Every day I struggle with the circumstances that render me an autodidact; still Awazu stands as a far-out testament to something that ran on pure craft and impulse. No resignatory attempt at transcendence here: rather the forging of an incessant superreality in the face of the external. Jacob wrestling with the angel, middle finger to the zeitgeist. Beast of a man, and a pervasively human beast.