Matsumi Kanemitsu

(Ogden, Utah, 1922 - 1992)

North America, American

Matsumi Kanemitsu is best known for his complex paintings done with acrylics to achieve abstract imagery that often reflected landscapes and forces of nature. Born in the United States, Kanemitsu grew up in Japan, where he lived with his grandparents until he was eighteen. He received a minor amount of traditional Japanese artistic training while living in Japan through his grandparents. In 1940 he returned to the United States, joining the Army in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was arrested and sent to a series of Army detention camps where, with art supplies from the Red Cross, he began to draw with pen and ink and pastels. He was eventually released from surveillance and volunteered for overseas duty as a hospital assistant in Europe.

After the war, Kanemitsu studied with Fernand Leger in Paris; with Kuniyoshi, Sternberg, Rothko, de Kooning and others at the Art Student's League in New York; and with sculptor Karl Metzler in Baltimore. He was proficient in ‘sumi’ (Japanese ink drawing), watercolor, lithography, and painting on canvas. His painting was done with acrylics, using a technique that involved brushing, staining, pouring and glazing. The artists he worked with in New York specifically inspired his work in black-and-white watercolors. Kanemitsu developed a style that integrated his training in Japanese ink painting with modernist abstraction. After a decade in New York, he went to Los Angeles in 1961 on the invitation of the Tamarind workshop where he discovered a great love of printmaking.

Kanemitsu taught at Chouinard Art School and at the Otis Art Institute, both in Los Angeles, and remained there for the rest of his life. He was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship and was an artist in residence at the Akron Art Institute (now the Akron Art Museum). His work belongs to collections around the world and has been showcased at such museums as the Museum of Modern Art and the Japanese American National Museum.

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