New York-based emerging artist Miya Ando debuts recent work in Mujo (Impermanence), her first solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery. A descendant of Bizen sword makers, Ando was raised among sword smiths and Buddhist priests in a temple in Okayama, Japan. Combining traditional techniques of her ancestry with modern industrial technology, Ando skillfully transforms sheets of burnished steel and anodized aluminum into ephemeral abstractions suffused with subtle gradations of color.
For Ando, the paradoxical pairing of spiritual subject matter with metal is intentional. She says: “My work is an exploration into the duality of metal and its ability to convey strength and permanence, yet in the same instance absorb shifting color and capture the fleetingness of light. It reminds us of the transitory nature of all things in life.”
At the core of Ando’s practice is the transformation of surfaces. She produces light-reflecting gradients on her metal paintings by applying heat, sandpaper, grinders, acid and patinas, irrevocably altering the material’s chemical properties. It’s by an almost meditative daily repetition of these techniques that Ando is able to subtract, reduce and distill her concept until it reaches its simplest form.
Building on this premise of transformation, Ando recently began working with anodized aluminum as well as steel, producing a series of large-scale paintings infused with luminous color—a bespoke palette of muted reds, blues, greens, pinks, purples and gold she conjured from a limited selection of industrial dyes. Ando applies the pigments to plates of anodized aluminum as if they were watercolors. Anodizing—an industrial process in which sapphire crystals are electroplated to the metal—allows the dyes to bond to the material, producing more vivid color. The resulting patterns subtly evoke ethereal, minimalist landscapes and abstracted metallic horizons. “I like the idea of using things that are seemingly permanent,” she says. “By applying different techniques, I transform the materials to evoke sky, or water or air—it’s like a transition from the industrial to the natural world.”
Miya Ando received a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and attended Yale University to study Buddhist iconography and imagery. She apprenticed with the master metal smith Hattori Studio in Japan, followed by a residency at Northern California’s Public Art Academy in 2009. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2012. Her work has been exhibited extensively all over the world, including in a recent show curated by Nat Trotman of the Guggenheim Museum. Miya Ando has produced numerous public commissions, most notably a thirty-foot-tall commemorative sculpture in London built from World Trade Center steel to mark the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. She lives and works in New York.
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