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Kenzo Okada was born on September 28, 1902, in Yokohama, Japan. In 1922 he enrolled at the Tokyo Fine Arts University and in 1924 moved to Paris, where he studied with Tsuguji Fujita and was influenced by the French painting. Okada exhibited at the Salon d’Automne of 1927 and later that year returned to Japan. His first one-man show took place at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo in 1928. The Nichido Gallery, Tokyo, held solo presentations of Okada’s work regularly from 1929 to 1935. Also in 1929 two of Okada’s paintings were accepted at the sixteenth exhibitions of the Nikakai, an association of contemporary Japanese artists. Okada was awarded a prize by the Nikakai in 1936 and he became a member of the group the following year.
During the 1930s, in addition to painting, the artist made illustrations for books and magazines. He taught in Tokyo at the School of Fine Arts, Nippon University, from 1940 to 1942, at the Musashino Art Institute from 1947 to 1950 and at the Tama Fine Arts College in 1949-50. Okada was given solo exhibitions at the Hokuso Gallery, Tokyo, in 1947, 1948 and 1950. In 1950 the artist moved to New York where, three years later, his first American one-man show was held at the Betty Parsons Gallery. He continued to exhibit there for the rest of his life. In 1954 Okada was awarded the Annual Prize of The Art Institute of Chicago. The following year he represented the United States at the São Paulo Bienal and received the International Prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh. Also in 1955 a one-man show of Okada’s work took place at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Okada was the recipient of the Astorre Meyer Prize at the 1958 Venice Biennale, where he represented Japan.
Okada became a United States citizen in 1960. That same year he was awarded a Ford Foundation Grant. In 1965 the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo held a retrospective of Okada’s work, and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., included him in its exhibition Three Pioneers of Abstract Painting in 20th Century Japan in 1979. Another Okada retrospective took place at the Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, in 1982. That year on July 25 the artist died in Tokyo.