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Shigeru Izumi, Untitled, 1959-1962 Oil on linen 51 x 68 inches 129.5 x 172.7 cm

A Hidden Journey of Friendship: Shigeru Izumi's New York Paintings, 1959-1962

By Kyoko Sato, February 19, 2024

The exhibition "Entrusted: New York Paintings, 1959-1962" unveils the captivating story of Shigeru Izumi (1922-1995), a Japanese artist whose work from his New York period (1959-1962) lay hidden in a friend's storage for six decades. Now, seven of these paintings are on display at the Microscope Gallery, 525 West 29th Street, New York, offering a rare glimpse into Izumi's artistic journey during those transformative years.

The artist "entrusted" his works to his fellow artist Ay-O when Izumi departed for Paris in 1963. Ay-O, who became a participant in the Fluxus movement, then sought the assistance of George Maciunas, the founder of Fluxus. When Maciunas fell ill, he enlisted the help of artist/filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who shared space in the artist cooperatives of SoHo. Mekas diligently stored the works from the 1970s until his passing in 2019. Now, Mekas' son, Sebastian Mekas, is overseeing the care of the works in accordance with his father's wishes.

After receiving the "Newcomer Encouragement" award at the 1st Tokyo International Print Biennale Exhibition and participating in the 4th Sao Paulo Biennial in 1957, Shigeru Izumi emerged as a prominent figure in the Japanese art scene. Following these accolades, he was invited by the Japan Society to serve as a visiting professor at the Pratt Graphic Art Center, Pratt Institute, in New York, arriving in the city in 1959.

Art historian, Yoshiaki Inui (1927-2017), reflected on this moment:

"When I became interested in contemporary art — around the early 30s of the Showa era (1950s) — Shigeru Izumi was already a well-known figure in the art world. He captivated people's attention as one of the most talented artists of the new age. Izumi's activities during that period, particularly in the realm of printmaking, were truly remarkable. In an era where obtaining presses, paper, or even ink was challenging, Izumi was mostly self-taught in the techniques of etching and lithography, but his talent and dedication were so impressive that he quickly achieved success."
("Shigeru Izumi, Artwork" 1989, Kodansha)

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Kyoko Sato, Editor-in-Chief, has written for Art Review City, Shukan NY Seikatsu, New York Standard on Gallery Tagboat and ONBEAT. She founded the Asian Programming at WhiteBox, and served as its director from 2018 to 2021.

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