Mayumi Lake


Apr 19 - May 25, 2018

MIYAKO YOSHINAGA is pleased to present UNISON, a solo exhibition of sculptural photographic works by Mayumi Lake, from April 19 to May 25, 2018. This is her sixth solo exhibition at the gallery and her first in four years.  The opening reception will be held Thursday, April 19, from 6-8pm. The Chicago-based artist will be present.

In the spring of 2011, Lake was feeling overwhelmed after the triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant meltdowns) hit her homeland Japan. Three years later, her compelling photo series Latent Heat was born, featuring dark landscapes and alienated human figures to express ominous feelings of tragic endings such as death.  

In this exhibition, Lake offers a refreshing counterpoint to her previous work by creating a room installation where ten imposing “blossom” sculptures are illuminated by a mirror ball.  The blossoms are constructed of images scanned from Japanese vintage kimonos for young girls. Lake prints and cuts the floral patterns, reassembling them with toy parts, plastic flowers, imitation gold, sequins, and various other objects, all by hand.  As in her usual practice, Lake selects only the materials that recall her own childhood palpably.

The flowers depicted in the girls’ kimono are based on motifs from housouge, the mythic heavenly flowers, originated in Tang Dynasty China, rather than on real flowers. Lake’s “blossoms” threaded throughout the exhibition represent a vision of bardo in Tibetan Buddhism, where the soul floats between life after death, a state similar to the Western idea of purgatory. This in-between state echoes her own existence - a cultural hybrid somewhere between East and West.  

Lake states: “The use of the kimono goes beyond being just a reference to my cultural heritage, it signifies a dying cultural tradition as the use of this traditional garb has all but disappeared and is relegated to a symbolic gesture reserved for special and rare occasions. Choice of objects and toys are also direct references to my own childhood, which was saturated with objects that directly referenced American pop culture. Elements of the two opposing cultures are intertwined creating a strained and unique harmony that is illuminated through the constructed blossoms.”

Mayumi Lake studied photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Since 1997, Lake’s work has been exhibited at national and international venues including MIT List Visual Arts Center, Institute of Contemporary Art (London), Fotografie Forum International (Frankfurt), Art In General, Asia Society, and Museum of Sex (New York).  Her work is in the permanent collections at various institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Asia Society, and Joy of Giving Something Foundation. Nazraeli Press published two monographs by Lake (Poo-Chi, Ex Post Facto). In 2008, international photography magazine EYEMAZING featured her Ex Post Facto series. She lives and works in Chicago.

This exhibition has been made possible with grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Faculty Enrichment grant from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.     

  • solo exhibition