Masami Teraoka  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Masami Teraoka (born 1936) is a Japanese contemporary artist. He was born in 1936 in the town of Onomichi, between Hiroshima and Osaka, Japan. He studied art from 1954-59 at the Kwansei Gakuin University in Kobe, Japan where he received his B.A. in Aesthetics. He moved to the United States in 1961 and from 1964-68 attended the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where he received a B.A. and M.F.A.

His early work consisted primarily of watercolor paintings and prints that mimicked the flat, bold qualities of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. These paintings, done after his arrival in the United States, often featured the collision of the two cultures. Series such as McDonald's Hamburgers Invading Japan and 31 Flavors Invading Japan characterize themes in the work in this time period. These pieces blended reality with fantasy, humor with commentary, history with the present.

In the 1980s, Teraoka shifted palette and scale to depict AIDS as a subject, transforming his ukiyo-e derived paintings into a darker realm.

Since the late 1990s, he has been producing large-scale figurative paintings addressing social and political issues, especially the abuse of children by priests. These large-scale paintings borrow from well-known Renaissance paintings, rather than from Japanese woodblock prints.

Teraoka has been the subject of more than 70 solo exhibitions, many of which have traveled extensively, including those organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1980; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu in 1988; and the Yale University Art Gallery in 1998. Also in 1996 he was featured in a solo exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and in 1997 at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

His work is in more than 50 public collections worldwide, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D. C.; the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D. C.; Tate Modern, London, England; the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Masami Teraoka has twice been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York and received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Ascending Chaos: Masami Teraoka 1966 – 2006, the first comprehensive monograph on the artist, was published by Chronicle Books in 2006.

Masami Teraoka has given lectures at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Asian Art Society, the Institute of Fine Arts/NYU, and Brown University, among many others, and has received a number of grants and awards. He has also completed numerous commissioned pieces, including a painting, Samurai Businessmen for the cover of TIME Magazine, and Green Rabbit Island for the State Foundation for the Arts and Culture, Honolulu, Hawaii.He is represented by the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco since 1997 and Samuel Freeman in Los Angeles. He is arguably the most important visual artist residing in Hawaii.

Forthcoming exhibitions include:

Fall 2009 Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii "The Holy Terrors" (a traveling career survey exhibition curated by Michael Rooks of works by Masami Teraoka, 1974–present)

2009 (dates to be confirmed) Solo Exhibition at Moti Hasson Gallery, New York, New York

2010 (dates to be confirmed) Solo Exhibition at Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, California


  • Clark, Catharine, Alison Bing, Eleanor Heartney, and Kathryn Hoffman, Ascending Chaos: The Art of Masami Teraoka, San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 2006, 104.
  • Clarke, Joan and Diane Dods, Artists/Hawaii, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1996, 104-109.
  • Freeman, Samuel, Peter Clothier and Marcia Morse, Masami Teraoka: Cloisters' Confession, Santa Monica, Samuel Freeman, 2008.
  • Link, Howard A., Waves and Plagues, The Art of Masami Teraoka, San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1988.
  • Teraoka, Masami, Masami Teraoka, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1979.
  • Teraoka, Masami, Masami Teraoka, From Tradition to Technology, The Floating World Comes of Age, Seattle, Washington, University of Washington Press, 1997.
  • Teraoka, Masami, Paintings by Masami Teraoka, Washington, DC, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1996.
  • Yoshihara, Lisa A., Collective Visions, 1967-1997, [Hawaii] State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1997, 131.

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