Miyoko Ito

Miyoko Ito’s work has such intense gravity for me. In the midst of the high strangeness of our time I find solace in her works.

Six paintings are hung on white walls at eye level. The paintings contain muted and vibrant warm colors depicting abstract shapes.
Miyoko Ito: Heart of Hearts. Installation view, Artists Space, 2018. Photo: Daniel Per├ęz.


The only major professional goal I have left is to work on an exhibition or book about her work. It is a crime that we have dozens of books on the likes of Richter or Pollock but really only a single TINY volume on Ito – and it’s currently out of print.

Here is a review of the last major exhibition of her work: Light Effects: On Miyoko Ito’s Abstract Inventions, from The Paris Review, 2018. The most significant exhibition exploring Ito was mounted in 2012 at Veneklasen Werner in Berlin. Go here for a great selection of exhibition shots.

Miyoko Ito’s work hanging above the stairwell in the Roger Brown House, Chicago.

I first encountered Ito’s work in person at the Roger Brown House in Chicago in the fall of 1999. I spent a good deal of time roving around the Chicago area to see all the Ito’s that are available in and around the city.

One of my main teachers at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was Barbara Rossi. Rossi is an incredibly influential artist and educator who knew Ito and impressed me with her own work and her knowledge of the contexts surrounding art making in Chicago.

In 2015 I got close to arranging an exhibition of Ito’s lithographs but could not secure proper funding and loans of works. I’ll try again sometime soon. In that process I began to correspond with Vera Klement, a contemporary of Ito and a paragon of Chicago art. Via email interviews I got some fun backstory on the life and times of Ito, Rossi, and Klement. I’d love to get the chance to explore these artists and their works again.

Gradient red and green, curved and cusped shades. A red pointed mound sits atop a pale green inverted triangle inside angular red and green rectangles.
Miyoko Ito, Island in the Sun, 1978. Oil on canvas, 38 x 33 inches.

What I’ve been musing on recently

I’ve been thinking about overtly shifting the direction of my work for a while now – perhaps a year. I don’t know that this shift would be easily discernible from the outside, but it represents a significant change of focus for me. As I look back over the last year of my practice and then cross-reference what I’m seeing there with some of the artists and artworks I’ve been looking at during that time, I can really see some connections forming.

For instance, check out these recent pieces:

The Teachers, Mandala for the Murky History of Beginnings and Endings #1, Portrait of Miranda at Thirteen Months, Two Bells, and The Seedbed #1.

Then compare their compositional formatting with aspects of the works of artists I’m looking at here:

Richard Diebenkorn, Miyoko Ito, Barry Le Va, Nicholas Byrne, David Rabinowitch, Julian Stanczak, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Marcelo Bonevardi, Frank Nitsche, Sharon Butler, and Vincent Fecteau.

It seems to me that my previous forays into more formal explorations – such as with the Locus Series (book here), and the conceptually interconnected Quintessence Series and Dodecahedron Series – are becoming more and more deeply apparent in my main body of work. In some ways I’m finding myself less drawn to the figure as a necessity and more drawn to the composition itself. I’m deeply interested in the perception of formal dynamics and the sense of haptic maneuvering that can take place within two-dimensional forces.

So it is that my recent miniseries, three of which are shown above in progress (9 inches in diameter, collage, gouache, acrylic and graphite on paper), have come about. They call back to previous works, such as this one from 2005, which was part of a side project I did while finishing up grad school (I needed a break from my thesis paintings):

First Bend, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 14 by 23 inches, 2005. Destroyed. Click to enlarge.

Anyway, who knows? We’re all moved and pressed and pushed, often by things we don’t entirely recognize. That’s why painting is so much more like getting lost in the woods than it is like jumping in a car and driving to the store for milk. It’s not meant to be that simple.

If it were that way there would be no discovery, no evocation beyond what we already know… and what good would that be?