Gallery Chronicle (January 2012)
Prayer in a Cardboard Box

Appreciation: artist Kim Uchiyama

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James writes:

I have been following Kim Uchiyama’s work for years and featured her paintings in my October 2010 column for The New Criterion.

Uchiyama uses vertically oriented canvases, twenty by sixteen inches, to explore the abstracted horizon line. Her work is deceptively simple but unmistakably powerful when viewed in person.

She draws from a diversity of influences in creating this singular work. Her grandparents came to this country from Fukuoka, Japan in the early 1900's and settled as farmers in Cornelius, Oregon. During World War II, they were interned by the US government and lost their homestead. Prevented from returning to the West Coast, her family moved to Idaho and eventually resettled in Iowa, where Ms. Uchiyama was born.

Kim Uchiyama - Archaeo from Michael Feldman on Vimeo.


Uchiyama came of age as an artist during the post-minimalist revival of oil on canvas in the 1970s. She first came east to study at the Yale Summer School of Art and Music in Norfolk, Connecticut and then moved to work with Nicolas Carone at the New York Studio School, establishing herself in the community of downtown New York painters of which she remains a vital member today.

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In her art, Uchiyama dig deep into the rich tradition of Western painterly abstraction. She arranges strata of colors, bottom to top, that mirror the layering of paint on the canvas itself. A band of blue might be stacked on top of a band of pink, just as the blue line is painted over an application of pink paint. As a reward for close viewing, her best work reveals wonderful subtleties—the opacity of the pigments, the texture of the brushstrokes.

While investigating the materials of Western abstraction, Uchiyama also draws on an Eastern sensibility of spareness and restraint. She focuses on the beauty of form by stripping away concern for content and expression. The systematic division of her canvases creates an additional reserve that allows the properties of the materials to become more apparent. The rhythm of these paired-down compositions opens up nuances that one might otherwise miss, or that other artists might deliberately conceal, in more complex designs. Her work, profoundly resonant, has certainly taught me to become a more attentive viewer.

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Mixed in with her cultural influences, Uchiyama reflects a third source of inspiration: the flat landscapes of the American Midwest. With their vertical stripes in pinks and blues, her work recalls the plowed farmlands and big sky of Iowa, with horizon lines unobstructed by hills and infinitely receding into the distance.

As a serious and sharing artist who draws so successfully on a rich variety of cultural traditions, Uchiyama is an artist whose work I always can't wait to see.

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