Conversations: Michiko Itatani and Jake Webster: Passages

Exhibition Dates:

March 22 – June 8, 2014 | Warner Gallery
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Itatani & Webster

images:  left: Michiko Itatani, Untitled, from Rain Maker RM-2, 2006, oil on canvas, 96 in. x 78 in.
right: Jake Webster, How to Catch a Hole, beechwood

The South Bend Museum of Art is proud to present, Michiko Itatani and Jake Webster: Passages, the first in a new exhibition series titled, Conversations.

The work of Michiko Itatani is expansive, both in size and scope. Her large scale paintings create vistas that envelop viewers and can practically be stepped in to. Theaters, libraries, and cosmic expanses compel exploration. Windows to other spaces and small canvases attached to the surface of larger canvases act like hyperlinks, propelling viewers to ever further reaches.

Itatani began her creative career with an interest in writing fiction and that narrative pull has continued in her artistic practice. Each of her paintings acts almost as a chapter within a larger narrative. However, Itatani does not paint her canvases with an overarching narrative in mind. She invites viewers to collaborate with her, inventing their own narratives as they explore the sights and spaces within her works. Itatani states:

“In my youth, I wanted to pursue writing fiction. I strongly believe in fiction’s ability to express the deepest truths. My conceptual process of painting is similar to writing a novel. After research and consideration, I make a series of paintings. Each painting could be compared to a chapter of a novel. I see my recent work as a series of fictions based on the human desire to reach out into the mental and physical space beyond our grasp–outward and inward. My fiction is incomplete, fragmented and under inquiry. Through this process, I am trying to come to terms with the complex reality of the 21st Century. And my vision stays pathetically optimistic.”

Jake Webster’s sculptures and collages develop symbiotically with his poetry. A master of the spoken word, each of Webster’s works contains a story. He views the act of making an artwork as a way to better understand himself and connect with others. Webster uses the tradition of direct carving and creates art to find those insights and explore them through sculptures, drawings and collages.

While often abstract, his work relates to the figure. It speaks about his community and the environment in which he lives. Webster states:

“I am so moved by the people that come into my life, our shared stories become the foundation and the synergy for making art in this BIG/SMALL world. No matter how simple the solution we will find a way to make it complicated. Art allows us to communicate with one another without becoming angry and upset or shouting and shaking our fist when the topics become difficult. When others around us are saying let’s be tolerant, Art says no, let us be respectful. Art helps us find that inner peace as we seek the tranquility in our physical world. Art allows us to dialogue when we feel good, and know it, within ourselves. Art builds the trust that feeds the soul so that one knows what is right.”

Michiko Itatani (b. Kobe, Japan, 1948)
Itatani has worked as a professor of painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1979. Her paintings and drawings have been exhibited in over one hundred solo and group exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Linda Warren Projects, Chicago IL; Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL; and Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago, IL. Her work is included in internationally recognized public and private collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. She has received the Illinois Arts Council Artist’s Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Itatani received a BFA in 1974 and an MFA in 1976 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jake Webster (b. Greenville, Mississippi, 1947)

Webster is a sculptor, mixed media artist, spoken-word performer and educator with decades-long involvement in the South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana arts community. He has exhibited throughout Indiana, as well as Chicago and New York City. Recent exhibitions include Kuaba Gallery, Indianapolis, IN; Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, IN; and Artpost Gallery, South Bend, IN. His work is included in public and private collections such as the Crispus Attucks Museum, Indiana State Museum, and Ancilla College. As an educator, he has worked with developmentally disabled, middle school and adults, recently teaching in prisons as an art instructor to help the incarcerated consider new directions and changes in their life through art. Webster maintains a studio in Elkhart, Indiana and is the co-owner of Artpost Gallery in South Bend.

The Conversations series of exhibitions will pair a regional established artist with an established artist from outside of the South Bend community. It sparks discussion between the work of the two artists – examining parallels and dissonances, and provides an opportunity to exhibit some of the strongest artists working, today, in the region and nation. Taking full advantage of the expansive Warner Gallery, Conversations also encourages artists to show larger, more ambitious work than might be possible in smaller gallery spaces.



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