Kobayashi, himself a creature of the city at night, is drawn to the same foreboding, nocturnal scenes that magnetized Toulouse-Lautrec. Known for his cafe and bar scenes, which dominated his work in the 90's, he has now moved to the non-smoking section and is gravitating toward quieter settings -- an afternoon tearoom, a milliner's shop, the tranquillity of a private home. Still a tonalist, he admits to a growing freedom in his use of colour. Backgrounds of red or green and the artist's extensive use of black intensify his compositional use of negative space and serve to focus attention on atmosphere. While he is less and less a painter of details, it is the hint of detail that most intrigues us, and Milt Kobayashi has perfected the fine art of subtlety.
Winner of the National Academy of Design's Ranger Purchase Award and the Allied Artists' Silver Medal, Milt Mitsuju Kobayashi is a sophisticated painter who demonstrates a command of design as well as an unsentimental curiosity about people.
He was raised in L.A. but moved to New York as a young adult in order to become an illustrator. During one of his frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, he was impacted by the painting, "Juan de Pareja," by Velasquez. At this point, he realized the need to pursue higher goals in fine art. In doing so, his work reached national prominence through New York's prestigious Grand Central Gallery, then subsequently, select galleries in the Southwest. In November of 1999, his work was introduced to London through a sell out show at the Catto Gallery. Kobayashi’s paintings have been most closely associated with those of the French impressionist Edgar Degas in content and design. Small patterns throughout the paintings follow the influence of 17th century Japanese woodblock print masters. Minimal brush work enhances design while his palette creates mood and expression. Evolving from history, models and life's experiences, Kobayashi provides the viewer with the opportunity to engage in a unique dialogue. It is tricky pinning down Kobayashi's work.
A Japanese-American, based out of New York, he paints remarkably French post-impressionist-looking scenes with an updated palette and sensibility. Images of women and men, alone and in groups appear moody and evocative of late nights and inner demons. Rumpled clothes, ruddy complexions and messy hair render Kobayashi's subjects intriguingly bohemian. His intimate portrayals are personal translations of what he has witnessed on city streets, in movies and at museums. There are plenty of (Japonisme) bright patterns to provide visual allure amongst these subtly dark depictions.