People say my paintings are the act of creation, and they are. The paintings are very much a part of life, like breathing. It’s very much do or die. I’m growing all the time. All those years of painting is the beginning all over again. It’s so wonderful.

Miyoko Ito

Miyoko Ito

Allusive abstractionist Miyoko Ito was born into a Japanese family in Berkeley, California in 1918. She moved to Japan with her parents in 1923 to avoid discrimination and for initial art training, including calligraphy lessons. Ito later returned to Berkeley and majored in art at the University of California, where she was exposed to Cubist works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque plus Hans Hofmann's geometric compositions. During World War II, Ito was interned with her family at the Topaz camp in Delta, Utah, but she was awarded her diploma from UC Berkeley in 1942. After graduate study at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, Ito earned a scholarship for postgraduate work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In the late 1940s, Ito began to paint abstract oils in a Cubist style softened with Impressionistic brushwork. Critical acclaim came in the 1950s as Ito's paintings were part of the Art Institute's Chicago and Vicinity shows as well as the 61st American Exhibition in 1954. During this period, Ito befriended local artists Ray Yoshida and Evelyn Statsinger, whose passion for Surrealism led Ito to move away from representational painting. Rather than render landscapes, figures, or objects explicitly, Ito suggested them with shapes, lines, and curves. Simultaneously, Ito's preferred palette went from pastels to vivid oranges and reds, which she banded subtly to compel attention.

Although free of Pop references, the work that Ito made in the 1960s has been linked tangentially to Chicago Imagism, and Ito knew Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, and Roger Brown. Blues, greens, and purples returned to Ito's painting in the 1970s before she grew more formally abstract as the 1980s began. With the artists Richard Loving, William Conger, and Frank Piatek, Ito devised the term 'allusive abstractionism' for their shared approach.

The Hyde Park Art Center organized a solo show focused on Ito in 1971 and her work was included in the contemporary art biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1975. The University of Chicago's Renaissance Society held a career retrospective in 1980, not long before Ito's death in 1983. Recently, the market for Ito's paintings and drawings has grown considerably. Institutions holding works by Ito include the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago's Smart Museum, and the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. In early 2023, Matthew Marks Gallery in New York staged an exhibition dedicated exclusively to Miyoko Ito with sixteen paintings and three rare lithographs spanning the artist's entire career.

Auction Results Miyoko Ito