George Miyasaki (1935 Kalopa, HI – 2013 Berkeley, CA) was an American painter and printmaker active in the San Francisco Bay Area arts scene during the mid-to-late twentieth century. Although primarily known for his subtly hued Abstract Expressionist work, Miyasaki’s early contributions to the movement were largely ignored during his lifetime due to his race. Clement Greenberg and other critics denied the aesthetic influence of East Asian calligraphy and Zen Buddhism on Abstract Expressionism, instead depicting it as the product of exclusively Western traditions.

 

Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, Miyasaki moved to Oakland in the 1950s to study under Nathan Oliveira and Richard Diebenkorn at the California College of Arts & Crafts. He received a BFA in 1957 and an MFA in 1958, before joining the faculty. He quickly became a key figure in the Bay Area arts community—including a collaboration with Oliviera on two lithographs for de Kooning in 1960 and lectures at Stanford University—was a professor at University of California, Berkeley for 30 years until his retirement in 1994.

 

Miyasaki gained acclaim in the late 1950s for his Abstract Expressionist paintings and prints in his signature subdued color palette. In 1958 at age twenty-three, he notably received a purchase award from the Brooklyn Museum for his lithograph included in the National Print Exhibition. In the mid-1960s through 1970s, Miyasaki departed from gestural abstraction and began to pursue systematized studies of color and geometric forms. He later experimented with incorporating collage and hard-edge shapes before returning to more spontaneous compositions. Throughout his practice and regardless of medium, however, Miyasaki maintained a deep interest in the materiality and surface of his work.

 

In 2017, Miyasaki was included in Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West at Honolulu Museum of Art, a major exhibition which sought to re-examine the profound Asian art influence on Abstract Expressionism. Barred from the modern art canon for decades, Miyasaki and other underrepresented artists have begun to receive overdue recognition for their work.

 

Miyasaki has been included in over 300 exhibitions and has received numerous prestigious awards such as the Henry Ward Ranger Purchase Award (2001), National Academy of Design (1993, 1995), Brooklyn Museum Purchase Award (1958, 2001), National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1985, 1980), and Guggenheim Fellowship (1963). Miyasaki’s work is held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the British Museum, London; the Brooklyn Museum; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca; Honolulu Academy of Arts; James A. Michener Collection at the University of Texas, Austin; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Academy of Design, New York; National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Oakland Museum of California; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Portland Art Museum; San Diego Museum; San Francisco Art Commission; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Worcester Museum of Art.