Museum  August 26, 2019  Megan D Robinson

Mineo Mizuno Brings the Harmony of the Forest to his Installations

Courtesy LACMA

Mineo Mizuno, Tea House, 2019, Fort Mountain Ranch, California, courtesy of the artist, © Mineo Mizuno

Harmony, a new outdoor installation by American artist Mineo Mizuno (born 1944) is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Mizuno has spent the last few years living on Fort Mountain Ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and his work has been informed by that ancient forest. Inspired by the work of forest ecologist Dr. Suzanne Simard, of the University of British Columbia's Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences in Vancouver, and German forester Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate, Mizuno wanted to explore the communicative powers of wood, which seemed a natural progression from his long term exploration of the communicative powers of water.

Courtesy LACMA

Mineo Mizuno, Kelly’s Tea House, 2018, Fort Mountain Ranch, California, courtesy of the artist, © Mineo Mizuno and Friends

The LACMA installation centers around a teahouse-style construction similar to an installation Mizuno created on the ranch. Inspired by the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Mizuno’s tea house looks almost as if it has grown out of the forest. His otherworldly installation combines the traditional teahouse shape and sense of ritual communion with the wild beauty and magic of the forest, incorporating tree trunks, manzanita shrubs, ceramic pieces and Japanese calligraphy. He created a space that simultaneously gives homage to the forest and creates a place for shared experience. As Mizuno says on his website, “I wanted to create a space that was conceptual in character but could be functionally used for the purposes of having and experiencing tea. When confined to the interior space, I felt it was important to feel as though you were in another dimension. A space isolated from reality where people could gather for the singular purpose of enjoying each other's company.”

Courtesy LACMA

Mineo Mizuno, Tea House (detail), 2019, Fort Mountain Ranch, California, courtesy of the artist, © Mineo Mizuno

Sculptural pieces surround the teahouse; ceramic water drops and tea bowls are embedded in tree trunks and scattered on the ground, painted with Japanese kanji such as yui (connect) and wa (harmony), which reflect Mizuno’s ongoing interest in communication and harmony. “The ceramic pieces are presented around the wood, and in some cases sculpted into the wood itself, serving as a means of communication between the viewer and the object,” he says. 

Courtesy LACMA

Mineo Mizuno, Kelly’s Tea House (detail), 2018, Fort Mountain Ranch, California, courtesy of the artist, © Mineo Mizuno and Friends

Born in Japan, Mizuno has lived in California since 1964. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts and the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles. Mizuno has had numerous solo exhibitions in Southern California and Japan, with a survey of his work organized by the Long Beach Museum of Art in 2005-06. His sculptures have been in notable group exhibitions throughout California, and he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Community Foundation. Mizuno’s work is included in the collections of many notable museums in the US and Japan. He currently resides in Northern California.

Mineo Mizuno: Harmony is on view at LACMA through November 11, 2019.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.

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