Daily Art Moment: Minami Keiko

[Image description: Arbre (Tree), Minami Keiko, 11 7/16 x 11 7/16 inches, color etching and aquatint on paper. A square print depicting a highly stylized landscape featuring a large tree, a cloud, and a partial sun. The large tree begins at center bottom, its thick trunk rising and splitting into a wide V shape. The black bark is depicted as short vertical dashes grouped and layered at the trunk’s sides to convey depth. In the space left by the V-shaped branches are three oversized leaves placed side by side. The one in the middle has a pointed top while the other two have rounded tops. They are larger than the tree’s trunk and are composed of a multitude of smaller etched leaves over vertical dashes. Enveloping the large leaves and the upper branches is a muted green shape resembling a circle with the top edge depressed into itself. The circle contains more vertical black dashes. A line drawing of a bird is perched on the top right of the green shape. Above, a thin cloud composed of horizontal dashes appears. Just off center at upper left, a half circle resembling a partial sun is composed of concentric dashes. The background is a pale gray and resembles woven fabric.]

Minami Keiko’s etchings offer the magic of fairy tale-like, narrative settings. Her fine touches on the printing plate and understated colors result in delicate, sometimes whimsical scenes. For me, she is often sweet without being cloying. Yet some prints hint at a deeper and more mysterious sense of ennui, loneliness, or alienation. Minami was orphaned at a young age, and moved to Tokyo from Toyama prefecture at age 35 in 1946. Interested in poetry and painting from childhood, she began to study oil painting. She began etching after meeting artist Hamaguchi Yōzō. In 1954 they moved to Paris, where they both pursued successful artistic careers for three decades.

Minami was a founding member of Joryū Hanga Kyōkai, or the Women’s Print Association—the first printmaking society for women artists in Japan. This group was important, but it has never gotten the critical attention it deserves. You can see this print and work by Minami’s peers in our current small show on this pioneering collective—the first exhibition in the world to focus on this group as a collective in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Jeannie Kenmotsu, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art

Minami Keiko (Japanese, active France, United States, and Japan, 1911–2004), Arbre (Tree), 1955. Color etching and aquatint on paper. The Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Graphic Arts Collection, 83.57.284 © Musée Hamaguchi Yōzō

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