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

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