RYAN LEE is pleased to announce George Miyasaki (1935-2013), Abstract Expressionist California: Paintings and Lithographs, 1955-1961. This is RYAN LEE’s first presentation of Miyasaki’s work since announcing the representation of his estate last December. The exhibition will feature a selection of Miyasaki’s acclaimed early abstractions, many of which have never before been shown.
Miyasaki was born in rural Hawaii to Japanese parents and grew up under martial law during World War II. In 1953 he moved to Oakland, California to study with Richard Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliveira at the California College of Arts & Crafts. Working in both painting and printmaking, Miyasaki cultivated a Bay Area-inflected brand of abstract expressionism. Drawing inspiration from nature, particularly the western landscape, paintings like Coastline (1960) use a pale palette of gray-blues, sea green, rose, and a few dabs of yellow to convey a foggy seascape with subdued hues that are tempered by its thickly painted surface. This balanced execution of harmony and dissonance is also characteristic of Terrain #2 (1958) and Horizon #2 (1959), both of which demonstrate Miyasaki’s gestural application of controlled color.
The apex of the abstract expressionist movement in the United States during the immediate postwar years corresponded with a period of intense discrimination against Asian Americans, particularly those of Japanese descent. As a result, while the influence of Zen Buddhism and calligraphy were celebrated by many of the white male practitioners historically associated with the New York School, acknowledgement of these concepts’ Asian origins were routinely denied. This omission was promulgated by the preeminent critic Clement Greenberg, who falsely dismissed this interest in Asian culture as “cursory,” further relegating Asian influence and Asian American artists like Miyasaki and contemporaries such as Ruth Asawa to the margins of twentieth-century art history. Despite his celebrated and sustained presence in the Bay Area art scene, Miyasaki’s distance from New York and his continued exploration of abstraction amidst the burgeoning Bay Area figurative movement has slowed the pace of his national recognition. This presentation of Miyasaki’s work at RYAN LEE comes at a time when revisionist art history is at last widening the modernist canon to include the contributions of nonwhite artists, and many Asian American artists for the first time.