Art in Review; Miyoko Ito
By KEN JOHNSON
Published: April 14, 2006



Adam Baumgold Gallery
74 East 79th Street, Manhattan
Through April 30


Miyoko Ito (1918-1983) inspired a generation of artists who came of age in Chicago in the 1960's and early 1970's, including Jim Nutt, Roger Brown and Elizabeth Murray. This excellent show of her beautiful and luminous paintings from the 60's and 70's -- the latter half of her career -- is the first solo presentation of Ito's work in New York since 1978.

Ito created a unique, semi-abstract blend of Constructivism and Surrealism. Fine straight and curvy lines define flat areas of muted color that are subtly modulated by light, giving the impression of an enigmatic, possibly Japanese architecture with paneled walls punctuated by doors and windows. Some pictures suggest accumulations of furniture in storage.

Up close you see that the surfaces are made of countless small, dry brushstrokes, creating a texture like fine-grained stucco and imparting an all-over visual and tactile vibration. The slightly blurred fine lines defining broader shapes are actually gaps betweens areas of color. These qualities of touch and texture give the gratifying feeling that nothing about the making of the paintings was taken for granted.

Despite the flatness and abstraction, the paintings conjure a de Chirico-like sense of expectancy, as if, were you to wait patiently and with a sufficiently open mind, some miraculous revelation would occur on their implied stages. Yet there is nothing heavily portentous about Ito's paintings; they have a wry, light sense of humor that is perfectly in tune with their sense of mystic possibility and formal elegance. KEN JOHNSON