The Paris Review

Light Effects: On Miyoko Ito’s Abstract Inventions

Center Stage, 1980, oil on canvas.

In the fifties, when she was in her early thirties, Miyoko Ito was “called an old lady painter, passe.” She recalled the slight when she was sixty and nearing the end of her life, yet still decades away from recognition. Now, thirty-five years after her death, her work looks positively avant-garde for any time. Paintings from her most inventive period, the seventies and early eighties, were recently the subject of “Heart of Hearts” at Artists Space in New York, curated by Jordan Stein. (The show originated at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.) Ito’s work is brilliantly sui generis: it touches on the familiar styles of surrealism, minimal abstraction, and synthetic cubism to create meditative color spaces of intermingling forms that allude to landscapes, sexual organs, and urban architecture.

For decades, Ito, who spent her adult life in Chicago, has been a kind

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