George Miyasaki (1935-2013)
George Miyasaki, Professor Emeritus of Art Practice, UC Berkeley, passed away on October 21, 2013. He was born in Kalopa, Hawaii in 1935, a part of the island dominated by sugar plantations. In this rural environment, he was encouraged by his high school art instructor to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. So, in 1953, Miyasaki began studies at California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland where his fellow students included Manuel Neri and Billy Al Bengston. Among his teachers were Nathan Oliveira and Richard Diebenkorn, artists who were not yet legends. Each had a lasting impact on Miyasaki. During this time, Miyasaki began to work in an abstract expressionist manner and by the late 1950’s his paintings and lithographs began to find an audience and gain critical attention.
Despite his early success, Miyasaki abandoned the expressionist approach during the mid-sixties in favor of more systematic investigations of color and form. The rigorous geometry characteristic of his works of this period subsequently softened and by 1978, Miyasaki was freely combining collage elements with hard-edge shapes and spontaneous, expressionistic paint application. He found his voice in both painting and printmaking with compositions that balanced abstraction, gentle and hard-edge shapes, delicate lines, and shadows of paint. In his mature works, Miyasaki engages the viewer in “almost meditative contemplation as he challenges the eye to survey the depths of his paintings, highly nuanced surfaces and subtle printmaking.” Miyasaki worked closely with Magnolia Edition where he produced several editions of delicate intaglio works and lithographs.
Miyasaki earned his BAEd and BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts (Oakland) in 1957 and his MFA from the same institution in 1958. From 1958-1964, he was an Assistant Professor at California College of Arts & Crafts, Oakland. During that period, he was a Visiting Lecturer at Stanford University for one year. In 1964 Miyasaki joined the Department of Art Practice where he started as a Lecturer, then moved to Assistant Professor and retired as Full Professor in 1994. While at Berkeley, he designed and developed a world-class printmaking studio, still in use today.
His work has been exhibited both locally and internationally in venues such as the Mary Ryan Gallery in New York, the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco, the Paul Klein Gallery in Chicago, the Rubiner Gallery in Michigan, the Dillon Gallery in Seattle, the Honolulu Academy of the Arts in Hawaii, the Gallery of Modern Art in Washington, D.C. and at various sites in Yugoslavia. In addition to his numerous solo exhibits, his work has been in over 300 group exhibitions in important venues throughout the nation. Many of those group exhibits highlighted Asian American Modern Art, Abstract Expressionism, and Contemporary Trends. His prestigious fellowships and awards include the Henry Ward Ranger Purchase Award (2001), National Academy of Design, New York City (1995), Purchase Award, Brooklyn Museum, NY (1993), National Academy of Design, New York City (1993), National Endowment for the Arts, Artist’s Fellowship (1985, 1980), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1963).
Miyasaki’s work has been collected by many important institutions such The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, James A. Michener Collection at the University of Texas, Austin, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, National Academy of Design in New York City, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, San Diego Museum, San Francisco Art Commission, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, Worcester Museum of Art in Massachusetts, the Oakland Museum of California, and The British Museum in London, In addition, his work has been collected by institutions in Canada, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia, and England.
Miyasaki continued to live and work in Berkeley until his death. He is survived by his daughter, Julie Miyasaki, and two sons, Farrell and Michael Miyasaki. From March 19-22 and 28, 2014 a retrospective of George Miyasaki’s work will be held in the Worth Ryder Art Gallery (116 Kroeber Hall) as part of the SCG International Conference exhibition of prints. The Show’s Opening will be held March 19 with a reception from 4-7 pm.