Miyoko Ito: Needle, Stone, and Mud

Opening: Friday, May 3, 2024 6 – 8 pm
Friday, May 3 – Jun 22, 2024

2156 West Fulton St.
Chicago, IL 60612


Miyoko Ito

Needle, Stone, and Mud

On two occasions Miyoko Ito took a hiatus from painting. The first came when she was pregnant in the late 1940s. Printmaker Max Kahn suggested to Ito, who was in residence at Ox-Bow summer school in Saugatuck, Michigan, that she spend some time in the printmaking studios, where she made a series of lithographs. The style of these figurative and landscape works foreshadowed her turn to a more abstract compositional modality. Ito resumed painting soon thereafter, and continued until the late 1970s, when she was recovering from chemotherapy and a double mastectomy for breast cancer. Hospitalized for what she referred to as a nervous breakdown, Ito turned to ceramics, a medium she greatly enjoyed, making a small opus of delicately glazed pieces before returning to paint her final few years worth of canvases. 

In Needle, Stone, and Mud, CvsD presents three less-well-known facets of Ito's output – her early figurative painting, her lithographs, and her ceramics. The exhibition includes two examples of her black and white lithographs from 1949-50, one of which is titled "Mistress of the Sewing Machine." This print work is the source of a major early painting of the same name, which is also presented in the show; featuring the same techniques as her later abstractions, with high-key colors peeking out from the edges of shapes that appear in various shades of green, it depicts a female figure in ponytails and bangs framed behind a black sewing machine. The forms are more abstracted here than they are in the print, rendered as flat geometric areas, outlined in white lines that reveal the substrate. In her ceramic works, Ito carries forward some of the motifs of her paintings – abstractions of architecture and bodily inferences (vaults, hearths, and vessels), as well as a concern for surfaces, the promise of a colorful, shiny interior hidden within a matte, earthen exterior.
Miyoko Ito (1918-1983) is one of the most important abstract painters to emerge from Chicago. Long also understood as one of the city's best-kept secrets, Ito's star has finally risen internationally, especially with recent exhibitions at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, and Veneklasen Werner, Berlin, and a museum retrospective that traveled from the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, California, 2017, to Artist Space, New York, 2018. The latter produced a comprehensive catalog, Miyoko Ito: Heart of Hearts (Pre-Echo Press, 2023), edited by Jordan Stein, who curated the exhibitions.




Image: Miyoko Ito, Untitled, c. 1979, ceramic, 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 inches.