There is a compelling tension in the work of Japanese-American artist Miya Ando, between two seemingly antipodal forces: the cold strength of steel and the softness of sunlight. Born to a Russian-American father and a Japanese mother, and descended from a clan of Bizen sword makers, Ando is currently based in Brooklyn. Her work is marked by a distinct fascination with metal—or, more precisely, with the extent to which metal’s properties can be transformed, an interest that can be traced to her family heritage. By subjecting large sheets of steel or aluminum to a sequence of physical processes and chemicals, from heat and sandpaper to grinders, acid, and patinas, she produces color-suffused atmospheric effects: abstract paintings on metal canvases that evoke unpopulated winter horizons, cloud formations, or hazy summer sunsets.
Now, Ando’s signature manipulation of surfaces has culminated in a series of new compositions on aluminum, brought together under the title “Kisetsu (Seasons)”for an exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery. With such evocative titles as Summer Blue River (2014) and Momji Gari (Viewing of Autumn Leaves) (2014), the works encompass the nuances in shade and tone of all four seasons, featuring a luminous palette of blue, pink, green, and gold that the artist conjures from a selection of industrial dyes.
Like her art, Ando’s life has been shaped by accommodations, negotiations, and assimilations. There is, to begin, the question of her cultural upbringing: although, as a child, she was based for most of the year in the United States, she regularly spent holidays with relatives in a Buddhist temple in Okayama, Japan. There she was exposed to the paradoxical influences of an artisanal craft used to manufacture lethal weapons and the pacifist tendencies of Zen Buddhism, which privileges the natural world. The duality of these forces is reflected in these large-scale compositions, which appear to have faded from the sun, been weathered by wind, and eroded by rain despite their sturdy, industrial physicality. The compositions featured in “Kisetsu”are defined by intricate gradations of form and color that echo nature’s delicate balance, reflecting the subtle changes that take place with the passage of time.