Born in Nagoya in 1936, Shusaku Arakawa was a leading contemporary artist in Japan. While participating in avant-garde movement Neo Dada Organizers in Tokyo in 1960, Arakawa released three-dimensional works in the shape of coffin. He emigrated to New York by himself in 1961 and met his life time partner Madeline Gins. Arakawa received attention through the Diagrammatic Paintings series, where words and signs were placed on the three-dimensional flat paintings, and earned an international reputation though the Mechanism of Meaning in the 1970s. In the 1990s, he embarked on architectural works with Gins as a test for Reversible Destiny, a concept experiment to reverse humans’ destiny of death, and completed Site of Reversible Destiny - Yoro in Gifu in 1995 and the Reversible Destiny Lofts - Mitaka in Tokyo in 2005.
The title Gentle Friend refers to Shuzo Takiguchi, the poet and art critic who encouraged Arakawa to visit the United States and introduced Marcel Duchamp in New York. Viewers find complicated diagram and objects that look like alphabet and kanji characters under the black lines of rectangles. Arakawa drew the map showing locations where he and Takiguchi acted together on the painting.