VMPEA: Maki Kaneko
“Global Modernisms and 'Homeless' Nihonga: The Art of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani”
Maki Kaneko, PhD., Associate Professor, The Kress Foundation Department of Art History, University of Kansas
Discussant: Chelsea Foxwell, PhD., Associate Professor of Art History and the College, Department of Art History
Abstract: This presentation focuses on the artist Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani (1920-2012) and explores how his collage-drawings pose a challenge to the normative mode of history writing. Mirikitani was born in Sacramento, California, raised in and trained as a painter in Hiroshima, Japan, and returned to the U.S. at age eighteen. During the Pacific War, Mirikitani was incarcerated and forced to renounce his U.S. citizenship. From the late 1980s, Mirikitani, without acknowledgment of his reinstated U.S. citizenship, lived and made his art on the streets of New York City to survive as well as keep his memories alive. Mirikitani’s interstitial identity as a kibei (the Japanese Americans educated in Japan) and long-term stateless person, trans-Pacific trajectories, and street life in NYC largely shaped his signature art form and practice: a mélange of Nihonga (traditionalist-style Japanese painting) and photo-collage made out of cast-off materials. These works were also created through ad-hoc collaborations with the NYC neighbors and pedestrians who provided the artist with necessary tools or labor. Through this highly entangled art form and unconventional working method, the artist made a bold claim about his legitimate position within mainstream US-Japan history as well as the post-1945 NY art community. Given his improvised method of collaboration and interstitial identity, I propose to analyze Mirikitani’s collaged works through the two critical conceptual lenses of “bricolage” and “inter-imperiality.” This study thereby considers the radical potentials of Mirikitani’s art which invites us to reimagine the histories beyond the rigid fixities.
This workshop will take place on Zoom. Meeting information will be released a week in advance of the workshop.
About VMPEA: The Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia Workshop is oriented toward the study of visual and material objects, built environments, and the relationship between text and image from East Asia. It explores a plethora of visual and textual materials across a variety of historical periods and geographic locations in order to understand socio-political, cultural, and historical aspects of China, Japan, and Korea. While being based in art history, the Workshop is committed to interdisciplinary inquiries and perspectives, including but not limited to archaeology, anthropology, architecture, literature, religion studies, cinema and media studies, and museum studies. With visual evidence as the basis of our inquiries, our workshops are opportunities for collaborative examination and discussion of these vital materials. As such, we offer speakers the opportunity for open-ended exploration and discussions of the presented materials, in addition to the traditional formats of pre-circulating papers and respondents. This kind of collaborative “thinking through materials” is crucial to visual and object-based study, and we are renowned even among scholars outside of the University for our rigorous discussion sessions. While the Workshop invites outside speakers as an opportunity to encourage intellectual exchanges between students and established scholars, graduate students from the University are prioritized in our program. Recent visitors have included Stanley Abe, Zhang Jianyu, Huiping Pang, Yukio Lippit, Corey Byrnes, Deng Fei, Noriko Murai. In addition, the Workshop is a forum for joint-workshops, interdisciplinary and cultural events related to East Asian topics.