Critics’ Picks

Beginning of an End, 1981.

Beginning of an End, 1981.


Miyoko Ito

Thomas McCormick Gallery
835 West Washington Boulevard
July 9–August 21, 2004

In the 1950s, Miyoko Ito (1918–83) wore her clothing inside out to reveal the seams and rough undersides of her garments. Texture clearly mattered to the artist, who in the '40s moved from her birthplace in Berkeley to Chicago, where her iconoclastic abstractions exerted considerable influence, even on a local scene long dominated by the Imagists. The surfaces of her paintings come alive through a technique of underpainting—layering contrasting colors on top of one another—and in this exhibition, which focuses on the last decade of her career, the works bristle with the action of her short brushstrokes. Sticking mostly to a muted, earthy palette, Ito often played with biomorphic forms, as in Sea Shelter, 1970, with its rounded shell-like shape. Other paintings are more structured: The decisive, bold lines of an untitled work from 1972 suggest a small enclosed space framed by a window. On a few canvases, she left the tacks that attach the canvas to the stretcher sticking halfway out, creating a halo of nails. This practical system facilitated the canvas’s speedy removal, but the effect is somewhat menacing nevertheless, contributing to the mystery and allure of her paintings.