Artists Kazuko Miyamoto
Date 07.04.22 - 24.07.22
Curator Tiffany Lambert
Venue Japan Society, New York City
All images Courtesy of the artist and Zürcher Gallery, New York/Paris
Throughout Miyamoto’s career, the presence of the artist’s hand has remained a constant aesthetic sensibility as has the use of modest, often found materials such as nails, string, umbrellas, tree branches, brown paper bags, and newspaper. A through-line of the exhibition aims to express that gestural abstraction and personal references are present in the artist’s work from the beginning to today, complicating her engagement with the vocabulary of minimalism—repetition, geometry, and the grid.
In the early 1970s, Miyamoto began creating string constructions, at first with just a few threads stretched and anchored around nails in her studio walls and then becoming increasingly more complex and spatial in nature. The constructions were made through an intuitive process, emerging out of the artist’s relationship with a given space. Contrary to Minimalism’s systematic, rigid approach to geometry, Miyamoto embraced uncertainty, chance, and ephemerality, distinguished by the presence of the artist’s hand. The exhibition includes pivotal works, including an early two-dimensional wall string construction, Untitled (1973), and Miyamoto’s first three-dimensional string construction, Male (1974). By recreating these historic works—which have not been on view in public since they were originally created—a major focus of the exhibition is to recover Miyamoto’s contributions to Minimalism and post-Minimalism while complicating the male-dominated history of the movement. Though influenced by LeWitt (who was not only an employer but a long-time friend, supporter, and avid collector of her work), the exhibition makes clear that Miyamoto’s idiosyncratic expression was always her own. “Hers was not a simple action of imitation…on the contrary she pursued, with relentless subtlety, a three-
The exhibition design by New York-based Ransmeier, Inc. honors and alludes to the avant-garde milieu and the industrial studio spaces in which Miyamoto worked by incorporating hardwood platforms into which the string constructions will be directly anchored, illustrating the physical connections that Miyamoto had between her body and the architecture she was engaging with. Community has been central to Miyamoto’s practice and grew increasingly important over the course of her career as she more frequently worked in performance and through collaborations with the many artists in her orbit, including Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, David Hammons, and Adrian Piper, among numerous others.
Miyamoto’s career can be seen as a varied exploration of what it means to be a woman and an immigrant making art in New York City. Central to this and complementary to her studio practice were her roles as a connector, curator, gallerist, and champion for underrepresented artists. She participated in the “13 Women Artists” show in Soho in 1972, which was a precursor to A.I.R. Gallery — the first all-women artist collective in the United States—opening later that year at 97 Wooster Street, New York. As an early member of A.I.R., she presented five solo shows and co-curated two group exhibitions with the gallery.
Over the years she became a pivotal figure in the downtown avant-garde scene and she opened her own gallery, Onetwentyeight, at 128 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side in 1986. In this space, she focused on community-building and highlighting the work of immigrant and young emerging artists who had few opportunities to exhibit elsewhere. Miyamoto was the first to show the work of several prominent as well as now-recognized artists, including Jean- Michel Basquiat, David Hammons, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, and Piotr Uklanski. Onetwentyeight remains the longest-running gallery on the Lower East Side today.
Curated by Tiffany Lambert, Kazuko Miyamoto: To perform a line enters into a canon of historic exhibitions held at the Japan Society, which has been a thought leader in the arts since its gallery was first established in 1971. In particular, Japan Society has been focused on re- examining underrepresented artists, particularly women, including through early installations and grant and fellowship support of Shigeko Kubota, Yayoi Kusama, and Yoko Ono, among others, in the nascent stages of their careers. Kazuko Miyamoto: To perform a line builds upon this history and the ideas and threads that will be explored throughout Japan Society’s exhibition calendar and related programming in 2022 and beyond.