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George Miyasaki

b. 1935 Kalopa, HI – d. 2013 Berkeley, CA

George Miyasaki

BIOGRAPHY

George Miyasaki (1935 Kalopa, HI – 2013 Berkeley, CA) was a painter and printmaker active in the San Francisco Bay Area arts scene during the mid-to-late twentieth century.

Miyasaki gained acclaim as a brilliant colorist in the late 1950s and early 60s for his Abstract Expressionist paintings and prints. Unlike his counterparts of the New York School, Miyasaki was concerned with the spontaneity and randomness of natural creation rather than expressing his own inner psychology. He often drew inspiration from the local landscape, referring to California and the American West in his titles. In the mid-1960s, Miyasaki departed from gestural abstraction and experimented with Pop Art collages before pursuing systematized studies of color and hard-edged shapes in the 1970s, developing his own abstract language that reduced complex organic forms into simple geometric ones. In 1967, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art held Arts of San Francisco: George Miyasaki, a solo exhibition of his work. In 1980, he participated in the 14th International Biennial for Graphic Art in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.

His paintings from the 1980s and 1990s incorporated checkered patterns, calligraphic brushstrokes and thickly built-up surfaces. He continued to explore this materiality in his late work through the 2000s, combining both expressionistic and hard-edge abstraction with cut-out shapes layered onto the canvas. “I deal with things like hard and soft, whether they’re organic or synthetic,” Miyasaki once explained. “I don’t see things in subjects. A yin-yang kind of thing, I guess, that’s the easiest way I can describe what I do. I try to use opposites to balance one thing with another.”

Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, Miyasaki grew up in a rural area surrounded by sugar plantations and lived under martial law during World War II. Encouraged by his high school art instructor, he moved to Oakland in the 1950s to study with Nathan Oliveira and Richard Diebenkorn at the California College of Arts & Crafts. He received a BFA in 1957 and an MFA in 1958 before joining the faculty through 1964. He quickly became a key figure in the Bay Area arts community, lecturing at Stanford University and collaborating with Oliveira on two lithographs for Willem de Kooning. In 1964, he became a professor of art practice at the University of California, Berkeley and taught until his retirement in 1994.

He has received numerous prestigious awards, such as the Henry Ward Ranger Purchase Award (2001), National Academy of Design (1993, 1995), Brooklyn Museum Purchase Award (1958, 2001), National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1985, 1980), and the Guggenheim Fellowship (1963).

In 2017, Miyasaki was included in Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West curated by Theresa Papanikolas at the Honolulu Museum of Art, an exhibition which sought to re-examine the profound influence of Asian art on Abstract Expressionism. In 2019, he was included in Photo Revolution: Andy Warhol to Cindy Sherman at The Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. Miyasaki has been featured in over 30 more solo and over 300 more group exhibitions at the Yale University Art Gallery, CT (2022); Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, NY (2022); Worcester Art Museum, MA (2019); Honolulu Museum of Art, HI (2018); Richmond Art Center, CA (2011); Worth Ryder Gallery at UC Berkeley, CA (2014); De Young Museum, CA (2008); Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, CO (2008); National Academy of Design, NY (2007); International Print Center, NY (2003); Cummer Museum, FL (2003); Amon Carter Museum, TX (1990); Nelson-Atkins Museum, MO (1990); Samuel P. Harn Museum, FL (1990); Embassy of the United States, Yugoslavia (1986); Portland Art Museum, OR (1983); Seoul Fine Arts Center, South Korea (1983); Brooklyn Museum, NY (1983); and Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, DC (1966).

Miyasaki’s work is held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; British Museum, London; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, NY; Honolulu Academy of Arts, HI; University of Texas, Austin, TX; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; National Academy of Design, NY; National Gallery, Washington, DC; Oakland Museum of California, CA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Portland Art Museum, ME; San Diego Museum, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; and Worcester Art Museum, MA.

News

Publications

George Miyasaki: Deep Space (1981-1989)

36 pages Click to view
RYAN LEE Gallery, New York, 2022

Abstract Expressionism, Looking East from the Far West

with contributions by Sean O'Harrow, Theresa Papanikolas, and Stephen Salel 111 pages
Honolulu Museum of Art, 2017

George Miyasaki

95 pages
Magnolia Editions, Oakland, 2007