Get Visual is the grateful recipient of a grant from The Christos N. Apostle Charitable Trust

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Go Home: Paul Akira Miyamoto at LGAP

Plank - oil on canvas 2021
A fine solo exhibition by the painter Paul Akira Miyamoto is on view through June 5 at the Lake George Arts Project's Courthouse Gallery.

Go Home presents a rare opportunity to immerse oneself in a world both real and imagined, within which Miyamoto has crafted a deeply personal tribute to his Japanese-American ancestors, while simultaneously presenting a critically important history lesson to those of us who would forget the unjust internment of generations of Americans during World War II by their own government.

Miyamoto is Sansei - third-generation Japanese-American - and his Issei grandparents, Nisei parents and older siblings lived for more than three years in the remote Poston concentration camp in Arizona, where they used their farming experience to domesticate infertile land, just as they had been forced to do when living free in California before the war.

Promise - oil on canvas 2021
Miyamoto's paintings reimagine these two scenarios as one serialized fever dream, sketching the sun-baked, clear-skied, surveilled family existence of a stoic, racially profiled people who did the best they could in nearly impossible conditions. The body of work gives voice to those people, but it is more celebration than lament. There's a quiet dignity in Miyamoto's figures, a subtle joy in his colors, and a simmering triumph in this gathering of paintings.

Miyamoto's project actually began long ago, but the majority of works in this show were made in the past year - a time in our nation's history that, unfortunately, could hold a mirror up to those terrible times and see itself fairly clearly. In addition to exploring his personal history, the artist seeks to remind us that we are in danger, even now, of such injustice being perpetrated again on American citizens if we aren't vigilant.

Shoulder - oil on canvas 2021
Along with the 14 paintings on view (ranging in size from 24"x30" to 48"x60"), there is a small selection of framed ink drawings on paper, displayed in a newly dedicated side gallery that the Arts Project has made nice use of for this show. These pieces are both more spontaneous and more specifically detailed than the paintings, featuring delicate monochrome washes of ink and tight pen renderings of camp buildings (one is shown at the bottom of this post). Made in 2018, the drawings seem like a prelude to the paintings, but stand alone as well.

Additionally, Miyamoto has created a site-specific installation in the main gallery, which is a minimalist reconstruction in tar paper and wood of a camp-type building. Stark, black, geometric, it balances the colorful paintings rather than dominating them.

Though I'm emphasizing content here, I want to point out that some of the formal and technical qualities of Miyamoto's painting are quite outstanding, with strict control of form, color, composition and, in particular, soft brushwork that makes them perhaps surprisingly sensual and seductive. His human forms are generalized, suggestive rather than specific, but crafted in such a way that their gestures speak clearly.

At a recent viewing, I noticed that several of the paintings had been sold to private collectors. This is wonderful, of course, but I hope that perhaps some of them will also end up in a museum somewhere. They're that good, and that important. Try to see the show in person if you can.

Camp #8 - ink on paper 2018

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

In Memoriam: Joel Chadabe

Joel Chadabe performs in the 1970s, using a very early PC as part of his equipment
On May 2, my dear friend Joel Chadabe died at home in Albany at the age of 82. Joel was a groundbreaking electronic musician and composer who taught for many years at the University at Albany, Bennington College and, more recently, New York University.

I first met Joel in 1987, when we each were renting studio space in a renovated factory in Albany's West Hill neighborhood, and we soon embarked on a friendship that featured many facets: Technical support, creative discussions and collaborations, countless homecooked meals, and an extended series of annual New Year's Eve and Fourth of July parties at the home he shared with Fran├žoise and Benjamin (wife and son - for more detail, see the Times Union obituary from May 9, and the New York Times obituary, which came out on May 26).

Those parties always featured a core group of the Chadabes' friends, many of them associated with UAlbany, but also often included visitors from afar. It wasn't unusual for several languages to be spoken in those evenings, and for subjects from dance choreography to theoretical physics espoused upon by actual experts. The evenings inevitably concluded with Joel at the piano and those bold enough singing songs both familiar and exotic. It was an experience of a time nearly lost to my generation, when friendship, creativity, and love of life seemed enough to conquer the world.

Throughout, Joel worked, shuttling back and forth from college to college and from Albany to New York City, where he always had some big project going on, whether a concert series, publishing venture, or recording studio. In 1997, he published an unassuming but seminal paperback book on the history of electronic music, Electric Sound, which I enjoyed immensely, despite my nearly nonexistent musical education. Joel loved sharing his knowledge and, especially, his enthusiasm for everything creative, and that attitude shone throughout the book.

In later years, Joel and I saw less of each other. He was often in New York, the old New Year's crowd was diminishing, so the parties ended, and I got busy with my own working life away from the arts. But the connection remained, and the sadness I feel from his premature departure is acute.

Joel Chadabe was truly one of a kind, a generous soul full of childlike joy, and he will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.

Some things never change: A recent photo of Chadabe at work with a MacBook.