Kimiyo Mishima: Paintings

May 18 - July 14, 2018


KCRW, June 14, 2018



Nonaka-Hill is pleased to present the first Los Angeles solo exhibition of paintings by Kimiyo Mishima, a contemporary Japanese artist.


Born in Osaka in 1932, Mishima was a child during WWII, and started painting in her teens as the war ended. Mishima recalls emerging from an air raid shelter to find her city flattened by American bombs, an event that undoubtedly impressed a lasting image of material and information chaos into the young artist’s mind. Throughout her ongoing artistic career, which is now past 65 years of activity, Kimiyo Mishima has consistently expressed her “fear and anxiety of drowning in information” through paintings, photographs, ceramics, sculpture and large-scale installations. In 1952, Mishima joined Atelier Montagne Youga Kenkyusho, led by artist Shigeji Mishima, whom she later married. Shigeji Mishima had been a student of Jiro Yoshihara, leader of Gutai Art Association, and the young couple mixed in this dynamic artistic milieu, where overseas art movements such as Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism were in discussion. In 1954, Mishima joined the Independent Art Association (Dokuritsu Bijutsu Kyokai), and by 1957 she abandoned figurative painting for abstraction, incorporating mixed media collage on top of painted canvas. Mishima’s use of newspaper and magazine imagery, often in repetition, was contemporaneous with emerging international phenomena of Pop Art and Capitalist Realism. Mishima produced such paintings through the 1960s, exhibiting with Dokuritsu where she received awards, sometimes alongside Jiro Takamatsu. The six paintings on view are from this period. The exhibition’s earliest work is from 1962, when the artist was 30 years old, and is titled “Recollection II”. On this panel, mosquito net shrouds torn magazine images of the American flag, fragments of architecture, beautiful women, lipsticks (which look like bullets). Four paintings in the exhibition date from 1965-66, years notable for the rapid acceleration of the Japanese economy within the period known as “The Japanese Economic Miracle”, 1945-1991. These works reflect the consumer confidence of the moment, and an increased appetite for imported entertainment, information, and luxury goods. In these paintings, foreign language words are prominent, while on closer inspection Katakana (Japanese alphabet for foreign words) reveals the paintings to be from Japan. These images, sourced from the same superabundance of printed materials that the artist fears being subsumed by, churn and tumble in the active dark areas of paint, contrasting with expanses of white paint, which could be described as voids.


 “Work 66-7A”, also from 1966, contains multiple images of human throat palate, gateway of consumption and communication. The painting’s pastel colored, spray-painted cloud-like shapes and geometric forms are peppered with stenciled shipping crate markings indicating export of “Made in Japan” products. In 1971, Mishima developed a method of silk-screen printing the attractive graphics of quick-consumables onto ceramic, and began an ongoing, signature practice of transforming spent, crumpled, and crushed “single use” items such as beverage cans, newspapers and corrugated boxes into Realist sculpture renderings of “Breakable Printed Materials”. In 1974, such works by Mishima were exhibited at legendary Minami Gallery in Tokyo, known for shows of leading Japanese artists of the time, and foreign artists such as J. Johns, L. Nevelson, C. Oldenburg, Christo, and others. In the decades since, Mishima, who speaks of a fear of mountains of garbage and overwhelming information, has continued to create fragile sculptural “fossils’ of these subjects, from actual size to monumental, with prescient fear and coequal wit.


Kimiyo Mishima, born 1932, Juso, Osaka, Japan. She lives and works in Osaka and Gifu, Japan. Installation scaled sculptural works by Kimiyo Mishima are on permanent display at Art Factory Jonanjima, Tokyo and at Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan. Her work is included in museum collections numerous museums in Japan, including National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art, in American museums including Art Institute of Chicago, Everson Museum of Arts, Syracuse, NY, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, Minneapolis Museum of Art, MN, Smith College, Northampton, MA, and museum worldwide including British Museum, London, Musée Cernoschi, Paris, Musée Ariana, Geneva, ARTER | Vebi Koç Foundation, Istanbul, M+ Museum, Hong Kong, and The Korean Culture & Arts Foundation in Seoul, amongst others. In 1986, Mishima received a Rockefeller Scholarship AAC through which she lived and worked in New York for a year. “The modern age is overflowing with information. Obviously we are afraid and apprehensive of the nonstop information that comes before our eyes daily, but we harbor a deeper fear of being inundated in the flood of information… In my work, I hope that will be a dry humor that includes the fear and apprehension of modern times.” Kimiyo Mishima, from “Printed Matter that Became Ceramic Art, Kimiyo Mishima, Contemporary Japanese Ceramic Art, Vol. 16, “Exploring New Form”, Kodansha, 1985

Installation Views