Masatoyo Kishi, California Abstract Painter and Sculptor, Dies at 93

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Hackett Mill announces that Masatoyo Kishi, the abstract painter and sculptor, died recently in Grass Valley, California. He was 94. Born in Sakai, Japan on March 11, 1924, Kishi graduated from Tokyo University of Science in 1953 with degrees in Physics and Mathematics.

After a short career as a mathematics teacher, Kishi began exhibiting with Tekkei Kai, a group of abstract painters affiliated with the Kyoto Museum of Art. He said, "As a Japanese artist in the 1950s in Tokyo, I didn't go to art school. Japanese artists studied literature, economics, science; then you explored art."

In 1960 Kishi moved from Japan to San Francisco where he lived until 1988. His Opus paintings from the late 1950s-60s are notable for their sweeping calligraphic brushwork and delicately dripped pigment.

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Kishi painted in the traditional Japanese manner with canvases lying in horizontal orientation, the larger ones placed directly on the floor. In addition to working with large brushes, Kishi often used wooden sticks to drip the paint onto the canvas and explained, "What develops from this method is an orderly conversation between me and the canvas. I respond to each change taking place."


Masatoyo Kishi, (L) Opus No. 60-145, oil on canvas, 1960, 48 x 48 inches, framed dimensions: 50 x 50 inches

The Opus series reflects a variety of interests including Zen Buddhism, Taoism, 17th-century Japanese architecture and Western classical music. By the 1970s Kishi abandoned painting and devoted his practice to abstract sculpture.

"Kishi's paintings inspire a sense of chaos and awe. To look at a Kishi painting is to accept a challenge of sorts, one where you find yourself completely immersed in the rhythm of the paint as you try to trace the artist's hand not to learn how or why he painted in this way but rather to gain access to the lyrical complexity that resulted from it." Jessica Phillips, Director, Hackett Mill.

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Kishi's paintings were regularly exhibited in the Bay Area and other national institutions, including, Palace of the Legion of Honor, de Young Museum, San Francisco Museum of Art, Richmond Art Center, Oakland Museum of California, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA.; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, NJ; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, among others. Kishi also showed with the Bolles Gallery and taught at Holy Names College in Oakland (1965-1966) and Dominican College in San Rafael (1964-1974). Hackett Mill has been working with Masatoyo Kishi since 2007.

Mr. Kishi's work will be on view with Hackett Mill at EXPO Chicago September 13-17.  


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