MASAKO MIKI: New Mythologies
New location: 1401 16th Street, San Francisco
June 16 - September 25, 2021
CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions is pleased to announce New Mythologies, a solo exhibition of bronze tabletop sculptures, watercolor paintings and felt sculptures by artist Masako Miki.
New Mythologies is CULT’s inaugural exhibition since officially relocating to Yves Behar’s fuseproject (1401 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103). The exhibition will run from June 16 to September 25, 2021 and marks Miki’s third solo show with CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions.
In New Mythologies, Miki continues her exploration of the Shinto concept of the Tsukumogami yōkai—shapeshifters that take the form of commonplace objects and undefinable forms. By engaging with these ancient mythologies, Miki hopes to forge new collective narratives that express contemporary cultural values, echoing dichotomies of human identity and transformation. Miki’s characters embody the contrary characteristics of being both sacred and secular, animate and inanimate and reflect the nuances of nonbinary spaces across gender, biracial identities and her own experience as a Japanese immigrant woman living between two cultures.
For her previous two solo exhibitions with CULT, Miki created the anamorphic yōkai in human scale from brightly-colored felt wool. The artist now contrasts the hand-felted wool medium with bronzes: densely layered in opalescent automobile paints that results in a glassy finish that continuously engages the eye through reflection and shifts in color. The figures—present in the gallery exhibition at table top size—are presented in monumental scale outdoors at the corporate installation. The varying scale of Miki’s yōkai allows viewers multitudinous engagements with the sculptures, aligning with the spiritual figures’ existence as fluid, frictionless forms.
In collaboration with Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, Miki has expanded the boundaries of bronze casting to produce mirror-smooth, seamless surfaces. Further departing from traditional bronze work, Miki has synthesized patina with modern paint to imbue the medium with a new life. Of working with bronze as a medium, Miki states, "Bronze sculptures have a beautiful presence with patina finish that offer curvilinear movement in my work. I have combined both patina and very subtle layers of paint to create flickering optical illusions of colors, which emphasize movement and highlight the shape of form. My sculptures have been shape-shifting in materials from paper to felted wool and now, in innovating on the appearance of bronze with new form and materials for a contemporary audience. These evolutions are a natural process because the essence of the shapeshifters is fluidity."
New Mythologies also includes new watercolor paintings offered in a range of sizes, including one large, wall-length artwork, that recall the appearance of Japanese scrolls. In yōkai tradition, the spirits saunter through the physical realm in a rhythmic night parade. The transparency of the watercolor medium underscores the fluidity of the spirits, who are depicted in the midst of their parade. Additionally, the artistic process of creating watercolor highlights the concept of chance and metamorphosis inherently embedded in the medium.
Miki has also unveiled a permanent public commission of her yōkai spirits to inaugurate Uber Technologies’ new campus in Mission Bay (1455 Third Street and 1515 Third Street, San Francisco). The art installation, entitled Holographic Entities Reminding of the Universe, resides between two of the four buildings on the Pierpoint Lane pedestrian walkway.
Concurrent to the exhibition, CULT will release short documentary film showcasing the evolving forms of Miki’s Shapeshifters. The documentary video is produced with Altr Studio in San Francisco.
Masako Miki was born in Osaka, Japan and has resided in the Bay Area for over twenty years. She has exhibited throughout the Bay Area at venues including Headlands Center for the Arts, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Kala Art Institute, and The Lab. In 2019, she collaborated with LEGO for its Rebuild the World program and reimagined her Yokai Shapeshifter sculptures morphing and melding with the city of Oakland, CA. Miki recently installed six sculptures as part of a public art installation called Boundaries Ahead in Shenzhen, China’s Coastal Cultural Park. She was a resident artist at The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, VT), Project 387 (Gualala, CA), Kamiyama Artists in Residency (Tokushima, Japan), Facebook Artist in Residence (Menlo Park, CA) and the de Young Museum with an accompanying solo exhibition in 2016. She received the 2018 Inga Maren Otto Fellowship from the Watermill Center in New York and 2017 Artist Fellow Award from Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. Her works are in the collections of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Facebook, The Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation, New York and private collections. Miki received her MFA from San Jose State University and has been on the adjunct faculty at University of California Berkeley, Davis, and Mills College.