Masako Miki: MATRIX 273

When 9 Jan 2019 - 28 Apr 2019
Where University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center Street
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) opens its 2019 exhibition season with an installation of new work by Masako Miki, whose colorful, sculptural forms are inspired by her interest in the folklore traditions and religious practices of her native Japan. For this exhibition, Miki has created more than a dozen large-scale, felt-covered sculptures that appear as dreamlike shapes, subtly invoking figurative objects such as lips, umbrellas, and insects. These works draw on the artist’s interest in Shinto, Buddhist, and traditional Japanese culture, such as the belief in shape-shifting spirits (yōkai), which Miki references in the titles of works like Kinoko (Mushroom Ghost) and Nyoijizai (Animated Back-Scratcher). Brightly colored and gently playful, the sculptures are displayed at BAMPFA in an immersive installation that also includes abstract images on the floor and walls of the gallery. The interplay of shapes creates a sense of fluidity between two and three dimensions, alluding to the intersection of corporeal and spiritual worlds that is a recurrent theme of Japanese folklore and of Miki’s own practice.

Born in Osaka, Japan, Miki has made the San Francisco Bay Area, and Berkeley in particular, her home for more than twenty years. Her work often explores her personal relationship to traditional Japanese practices, such as her own experience communicating with the deceased in Obon ceremonies, in which the dead return each year to visit their living relatives. As Miki describes her practice, “I want to create a context where the familiar and unfamiliar lose their distinctions and the boundaries of dichotomies become blurred. By reinventing narratives from my cultural traditions, I want to suggest alternative interpretations where new synthesis becomes possible.”

Miki’s exhibition at BAMPFA arrives at a moment of increasing visibility for the artist, who in recent years has held residencies at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and at Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley—where she installed a large-scale mural depicting a wolf and whale that remains on view in the company’s Menlo Park offices.

Miki presents an artist’s talk at BAMPFA on Wednesday, January 16 at noon, where she discusses Shinto traditions in Japan, how they address questions of boundaries in life, and how these ideas have developed and manifested in her practice.

Image courtesy of the organizer.

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