Robert Yasuda was born in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii in 1940. He spent his childhood in rural Hawaii before attending boarding high school in Honolulu, where exposure to museums, concerts, and television influenced his decision to be an artist. In 1958, he moved to New York City to study art at the Pratt Institute, earning BFA and MFA degrees and immersing himself in the work of the New York School artists. There he developed his paintings and refined his techniques, yet the influence of his childhood in Hawaii is palpable throughout his oeuvre.
In 1962 Yasuda received a grant from the Whitney Foundation which provided funding for travel and work in Europe and exposed him to the vast history of Western painting. Upon returning to New York he began painting multi-image abstract oil paintings. These early paintings were exhibited in solo shows at Galerie Bischofberger (Zurich and St. Moritz) in 1968 and 1969.
In the early 1970s, Yasuda converted a factory loft in SoHo into a live-work studio and began exploring themes of perception and light in minimal paintings that increasingly took on a sculptural and architectural presence. This work evolved into large-scale wall-painting installations, the first of which he mounted at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, in 1975. Over the next decades, he created site-specific installations at The Clocktower Gallery, New York; Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage; MoMA PS1, New York; and others.
Later in his career, he turned to hand-crafted multi-panel paintings exhibiting in many solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Over time, his work has moved beyond formal minimalism toward more subjective and sensual work that seeks to visually convey moments of perception and insight, along with allusions to nature and his heritage, including impressions of Hawaii and his childhood teachings in Buddhism.
Yasuda has received a National Endowment for the Arts award, The John Hay Whitney Grant, two purchase awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work is in many private and public collections including The Library of Congress, Washington, DC; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut; The McNay Museum, San Antonio, Texas; The Bass Museum, Miami, Florida; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA; and others.
Robert Yasuda continues to work and live in New York City and Sugarloaf Key, Florida.