Miya Ando: Kumoji (Cloud Path / A Road Traversed By Birds And The Moon)

Saturday, Sep 3 – Nov 5, 2022

835 W. Washington Blvd.
Floors 1 & 2
Chicago, IL 60607

Opening reception: Saturday, September 24, 4–7 PM

Online viewing room

Kavi Gupta presents Kumoji (Cloud Path / A Road Traversed By Birds And The Moon), a solo exhibition of new paintings by Miya Ando. Expressive of the transitory and immaterial quality of clouds at night, the exhibition spotlights nature’s impermanence and interdependence, concepts also prevalent in Ando’s recent solo exhibitions at the Noguchi Museum, Queens, NY; Katzen Arts Center, Washington DC; and Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, TX; and her recent group exhibitions at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (with Marina Abramović, Marilyn Minter, Ólafur Eliasson, and Ai Weiwei); Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Ando lived her formative years between a Buddhist temple in Japan and the mountains of Northern California. The unique vantage point expressed in Kumoji (Cloud Path / A Road Traversed By Birds And The Moon) reflects her experiences as an artist occupying the margins between Japanese and Western culture.

Ando’s circular night cloud paintings read like memories—never static, fluctuating endlessly depending on the position of the viewer and the available light. Based on actual night clouds Ando photographed in a variety of locations over the past three years, their ephemeral qualities illustrate the sentiment behind the Japanese phrase “mono no aware,” roughly translated as “the pathos of things.” Beauty fades; strength dissolves into frailty. Everything follows this rule; it is the vernacular of nature.

Kuu, a large-scale, three-panel painting made from reclaimed redwood and silver nitrate, borrows its name from a Japanese word of particular importance to Buddhism, which holds multiple meanings, including sky, void, and emptiness. To create this work, Ando first charred the redwood using a traditional Japanese fireproofing technique called shou sugi ban which requires burning the surface to protect the inner layers of wood from future damage.

“I char the wood because it dematerializes the object,” she says. “The silver nitrate creates a mirror. It becomes like water. A reflection is there and not there; it is material and immaterial.”

The overlap of emptiness and substance is further elucidated in Mizukagami (Water Mirror, or The Shadow Of The Moon Reflected In Water), a hammered steel floor sculpture that evokes the fugitive phenomenon of the moon reflecting on the surface of a pond. Like so many of Ando’s paintings, and like the moon itself, this sculpture seems to emit light despite lacking any source of illumination—a momentary articulation of both presence and absence.

“When you see the moon you see the light of the sun,” Ando says. “That reflected light is reflected again when you see the moon on water.”

Most ephemeral, perhaps, of all of the bodies of work featured in Kumoji (Cloud Path / A Road Traversed By Birds And The Moon) is Ando’s new series of paintings depicting stars, rain, and the phases of the moon, made with natural indigo dye and pure silver powder on mulberry paper. As Ando notes, “Indigo is like a little clock of coloration. The longer it touches a surface, the deeper and darker blue the surface becomes.”

Like the temporary carriers of yesterday’s light they depict, these paintings memorialize and measure that most fleeting of natural phenomena—the passage of time. 


Image: Miya Ando, Kougetsu (Moon On A Lake) June 13 Waxing Gibbous, 2022. Natural Indigo, Graphite, Kozo Paper, 39 x 39 in.