Critics’ Picks

Miyoko Ito, Architecture of a Landscape, 1971, oil on canvas, 42 x 39”.

Miyoko Ito, Architecture of a Landscape, 1971, oil on canvas, 42 x 39”.


Miyoko Ito

VW (VeneKlasen/Werner)
Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse 26
September 11–November 3, 2012

Miyoko Ito’s paintings are compelling, and very quiet. In this first European exhibition of the undervalued artist, comprising sixteen canvases and one charcoal drawing, nothing seems arbitrary or ingratiating. Themes of landscape and interior architectures are brought together in an aggregate of spatial illusion and geometry; distinctions between inside and outside become obsolete. The works blend traditions of Eastern representation with Western modernist abstraction (Chinese landscape painting and Surrealist Picasso are specific influences). There is a dreamlike consciousness in these paintings—reality is negotiable, unmoored, and challenging.

Paintings such as Mandarin, or The Red Empress, 1977, are like rooms consisting of screens and connected spaces with distant views. Nearness is indicated not only by a consistently brushed surface of subtly modulated color, but in some cases, as in Architecture of a Landscape, 1971, by canvas tacks half driven into the side of the stretcher that appear to reference votive or fetish objects. Such a tableau of displacement and association indicates that Ito was driven by much more than successful formal arrangement. The warm but not relaxed colors in the works—often ranging from turquoise through greens and browns to red—is both radiant and subdued, like the light before a storm. Ito lived in Chicago from 1944 until her death in 1983. Though independent, her paintings have a visible connection, in their surreal shape play, to the Chicago Imagists. More recognition is sure to come for this artist, whose elusive vocabulary resists easy categorization.