Based in New York since 2001, Nobuho Nagasawa was raised in Europe and Japan, and received her Master’s degree at Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. She came to the United States in 1986 by invitation of the California Institute of the Arts, where she studied art, critical theory, and music. Nagasawa is a transdisciplinary artist whose site-specific and community responsive works explore the politics, ecology, and psychological dimensions of space and people. Her projects range from sculptural installation, architectural intervention, and time-based work to activism, and public art.
Using time and process and community participation as critical components, her environments create experiences that are both tactile and sensory. Her artworks respond poetically to the architectural presence, social and cultural history, collective memory and political consciousness of their sites. Her recent works are shaped by her interest in the intersection of art, science, technology, sound, and synesthesia, a neuro-biological condition where the experiences of the five senses are combined.
She works in unconventional environments outside the mainstream art world and gallery settings. She revitalized a destroyed synagogue site in Berlin, turned abandoned World War II bunkers into motels for lovers, transformed the Turkish penitentiary into a sonic environment, paid tribute to the lost knowledge at the Alexandria Library in Egypt and flew kites with the local community in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster. Her works invite participation from their viewers, and she has collaborated with communities to reveal and address wounds from the past and give dignity to the healing process by juxtaposing the weight of the dark history with resilient and revitalizing poetic gestures.
Nagasawa has participated in over 100 exhibitions internationally which includes; the Royal Garden of the Prague Castle (Czech Republic), Ludwig Museum (Germany and Hungary), Rufino Tamayo Museum (Mexico), Alexandria Library (Egypt), the Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities (US). She was invited to participate in Asian Art Biennial (Bangladesh, 2002), Book Art Biennial (Egypt, 2002, 2004, 2016), Sharjah Biennial (United Arab Emirates, 2003), Echigo-Tsumari Triennial (Japan, 2003), Sinop Biennial (Turkey, 2006), Setouchi Art Triennial (Japan, 2013, 2016), Fukushima Biennial (Japan, 2012, 2014, 2016), and Nakanojo Biennial (Japan, 2019)
She is a recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), Berlin State Grant, Rockefeller Grant, California Arts Council Fellowships Award, Brody Arts Fund, and several Japan Foundation Grants. In New York, she was a recipient of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation’s Space Program and Established Artist Fellowships. In 2013, she received the State University Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.
Her work has been published in books including Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Japanese Against the Sky (Alexandra Munroe, 1994), Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (Lucy Lippard, 1997), Epicenter: San Francisco Bay Area Art Now (Mark Johnstone, Leslie Aboud Holzman, 2002), Art after the Bomb: Iconographies of Trauma in Late Modern Art (Darrell Davisson, 2008), and “Critique of Art about Tenno Emperor System: Beauty and Universalism and Nature (Hiroyuki Arai, 2004). Her work has also been reviewed in Art in America, Art Asia Pacific, Sculpture, The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and The New York Times by Holland Cotter.
In the field of public art, Nagasawa has been commissioned forty projects and has received numerous awards. She has also published master plans and worked in collaboration with architects and engineers for civic projects such as City Halls, government plazas, schools, libraries, parks and transportation projects. She is a three-time recipient of the “Excellence in Design Award,” the highest governments' public art honor, first in Los Angeles (1996) and then in New York (2006 and 2016) given by the Public Design Commissions. In 2019, Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park where she created a sculptural environment entitled “Luminescence” has been named the Best Urban Landscape Masterworks Award from the Municipal Arts Society.