Thursday, June 6-Friday, August 30, 2024

Ruth C. Horton Gallery

Free

Michiko Itatani's Cosmic Encounters consists of seven large-scale oil paintings, completed from 2016 to 2023, depicting imagined interiors of stately concert halls, observatories, libraries, and cathedrals punctuated with otherworldly light and celestial phenomena. Born in Osaka, Japan, Itatani's embrace of exploration and chance was evident in how she found her place in America — she chose Chicago by placing her finger on a map and has lived and worked there since 1973.

Itatani's imagined architectural spaces, seemingly devoid of human presence, are shrouded in mystery. They display an array of human curiosity, as if these spaces were refuges of civilization. Under the veil of night, the interior floors come alive with a collection of globes, constellation maps, scientific and musical instruments, and other curiosities. These items symbolize humankind’s quest for knowledge and enlightenment, placed under starry skies and peering through the glass ceilings of the exaggerated linear perspectives in Itatani's compositions. These achievements can seem like a ripple in the ocean compared to the scale of the universe, adding to the intrigue of her work.  

The animated characters in these worlds are patterned luminescent orbs; they organize themselves into cascading rings and floating chandeliers or appear as theatre lights, for instance, in the "Cosmic Wanderlust" painting from Encounter 16-B-3, 2016. The radiating orbs can be otherworldly or natural phenomena. In several paintings, a trio of chandeliers with rings of glowing orbs resemble alien craft. In other paintings such as "Shadows of the Mind" painting from Celestial Connection 18-B-5, the hovering yellow orbs mimic fireflies, infiltrating a Gehry-like glasshouse from the forest outside. The lights appear as the only living entities, independent from the fixed interiors. Set against the nighttime scenes, they imply cosmic encounters, the alien visitations we hear about in science fiction stories searching humanity's caverns of knowledge and seeking contact. Each painting's upward view makes the viewer look to the heavens, reinforcing the feeling that these lights are otherworldly.  

Biography

A native of Japan, Michiko Itatani is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is professor emeritus of painting. Itatani has received numerous prestigious awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, two Illinois Arts Council Artist’s Fellowships, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her work is held in the public collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; Art Institute of Chicago; Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, Missouri; Wright Museum in Beloit, Wisconsin; Erie Art Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania; Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland; American Embassy Permanent Collection in Brasilia, Brazil; Villa-Haiss-Museum in Zell am Harmersback, Germany; Tokoha Museum in Shizuoka, Japan; National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea; the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) in Québec, Canada; Museu D’art Contemporani (MACBA) in Barcelona, Spain; and others.

Header Image:
Michiko Itatani
“Collection Sol III” painting from Celestial Maze 22-B-1, 2022 (detail)
Oil on canvas
78 x 96 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Storage, New York

Image Gallery:
(from left to right, top to bottom)
“Collection Sol III” painting from Celestial Maze 22-B-1,
2022; oil on canvas; 78 x 96 inches; courtesy of the artist and Storage, New York
"Cosmic Wanderlust” painting from Encounter 16-B-3, 2016; oil on canvas; 78 x 92 ½ inches; courtesy of the artist and Storage, New York
"Rotation Matrix” painting from Cosmic Encounter 17-B-3, 2017; oil on canvas; 96 x78 inches; courtesy of the artist and Storage, New York
Shadows of the Mind" painting from Celestial Connection 18-B-5, 2018; oil on canvas; 78 x 92 ½ inches; courtesy of the artist and Storage, New York
“Shadow of the Mind" painting from Celestial Cube 18-B-07, 2018; oil on canvas; 78 x 96 inches; courtesy of the artist and Storage, New York