Retrospective

From the Archives: Peter Frank on Miyoko Ito’s ‘Optical Magic,’ in 1978

Left: Miyoko Ito, Tabled Presence, 1971, oil on canvas. Right: Miyoko Ito, Mandarin, or the Red Empress, 1977, oil on canvas.

DANIEL PERÉZ/COURTESY ARTISTS SPACE, NEW YORK/LEFT: COLLECTION OF ALICE BRUNNER, RIGHT: COLLECTION OF RICHARD AND CLEMENT DURKES

Long under-recognized by the mainstream art world, Miyoko Ito’s abstractions are currently the subject of an exhibition at Artists Space in New York. Shows of Ito’s work outside Chicago, where she was based until her death in 1983, have been rare, and so this survey of her works during the ’70s and ’80s is a must-see before it closes. With that show in mind, reproduced here is Peter Frank’s review of an Ito show at Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York from the October 1978 issue of ARTnews. Frank praises Ito’s “optical magic” and notes the strangeness of her canvases. His review follows below. —Alex Greenberger

“New York Reviews”
October 1978
By Peter Frank

Miyoko Ito (Phyllis Kind): Ito is a master of intense but exquisitely modulated color, which she achieves in thick, evenly applied oils that build up a granularity on her canvases. This finesse Ito applies to abstract compositions made up of both straight and curved lines. The lines and colors conspire to keep the shape of things in a permanent state of ambiguity. More than just a feeling of landscape pervades Ito’s pictures, but receding perspectives, horizon lines, atmospheric modulation, the red-brown of the earth, the green of vegetation and architectural details, while all decidedly there, do not quite coalesce into places. Rather, lines loop about, turn corners or cluster before they get around to describing things; the colors shift the wrong way, into pearlescent hues where intensity is expected, towards dark where light should be. This is an optical magic, forbidding almost surrealistically the emergence of recognizable reality.

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