Toko Shinoda (b. 1913)

Toko Shinoda was born in Manchuria in 1913, moving to Tokyo in 1914.  She studied calligraphy from the age of eight.  She is a rare artist whose modernism is rooted in tradition without compromise in either direction. Toko Shinoda is such a rarity. Her ability to hold this balance is a gift that she uses tactfully to present her personalized representations of calligraphy.  At the same time, her free treatment is readily decipherable in relation to the basic ideogram or picture title by those familiar with her subject matter.  This is the base of communication in her work and the example it offers to occidental, as well as to oriental.

Characteristic brush strokes overlap and angle elegantly in every Shinoda presentation, carrying with it an ancient oriental principle of perfection. Here not only emptiness is considered weight, but blank space is compared for shape and size -- by Western standards certainly a negative approach to art analysis. Shinoda's skillful use of litho stone duplicates the shading of a loaded brush as it is drawn over absorbent paper. The feathery created as moisture is dissipated. A few crispy strokes in each composition delicately offset the pull of the broader strokes.

She learnt calligraphy from her father from 1930 to 1945. In 1940 she held her first one-woman exhibition at the Kyukyodo Gallery in Tokyo. Her abstract work began in 1947, and by the 1950's, her works had been exhibited at the MOMA and other museums and galleries in New York, Boston, Paris, Washington and Brussels. In 1954 she produced mural calligraphy for the Japanese pavilion at the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the city of São Paulo, Brazil. In 1955 she exhibited at the Nichi-Bei chusho bijutsuten (exhibition of Japanese and American abstract art) at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and at the Sumi no geijutsuten (exhibition of sumi art) which toured Europe in 1955–6. From 1956 she held numerous one-woman exhibitions in Europe and North America.  In 1957 she held solo exhibitions in Chicago and Cincinnati and in 1959, solo exhibitions in Brussels and Tokyo. She also participated in a group show in Holland in the same year.

She began producing lithographs in 1960 and Worldwide exhibits continued.  In 1961 she was invited to exhibit work at the 6th São Paulo Biennial. The following year she created a relief mural for the lobby of the Kyoto International Conference Hall. During the period from 1965 through 1977, solo exhibitions were held in New York and Washington DC. A 28 meter painting was commissioned by the Zojoji Temple in Japan, and she was commissioned to do a major painting for the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Washington DC. In 1979 she received the Japanese Essayist Club Prize for her collection of writings, Sumi-iro. She took part in the American travelling exhibition Okada, Shinoda, Tsutaka: Three Pioneers of Abstract Painting in Twentieth-Century Japan (1979–80) and  she also had an exhibition at the Zojoji temple, Tokyo.

Time Magazine published an article about Shinoda on August 1, 1983. A solo exhibition of her work was held at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut in 1984 and in 1989, a major exhibition at the Seibu Museum, Tokyo. In 1990, a travelling show of her paintings and prints was held in Singapore and at Galerie du Monde in Hong Kong. During 1992 and 1993, exhibitions of her work were held in Honolulu and Tokyo. Her paintings and prints are in the collections of the Albright-Knox, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, the Singapore National Museum, the Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin, and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut. In addition, her works reside in numerous permanent collections, including the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, the Japanese Imperial family, Guggenheim Museum, Haifa Art Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Hague Museum,  and MOMA.


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