(Berkeley, CA) — The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) opens its 2019 exhibition season with a presentation of new work by the acclaimed Berkeley-based artist and designer Masako Miki. An important figure in the Bay Area’s creative community for more than two decades, Miki creates colorful forms in a range of media, which are inspired by her interest in the folklore traditions and religious practices of her native Japan. Miki is the latest artist to present new work in BAMPFA’s MATRIX Program, an exhibition series that highlights distinctive voices in contemporary art.
For her exhibition at BAMPFA, Miki has created more than a dozen large-scale felt-covered sculptures that appear as dreamlike shapes, subtly invoking figurative objects such as lips, umbrellas, and insects. These works draw on the artist’s interest in Shinto, Buddhist, and traditional Japanese culture, such as the belief in shape-shifting spirits (yōkai), which Miki references in the titles of works like Kinoko (Mushroom Ghost) and Nyoijizai (Animated Back-Scratcher). Brightly colored and gently playful, the sculptures are displayed at BAMPFA in an immersive installation that also includes abstract images on the floor and walls of the exhibition gallery. The interplay of shapes creates a sense of fluidity between two and three dimensions, alluding to the intersection of corporeal and spiritual worlds that is a recurrent theme of Japanese folklore and of Miki’s own practice.