Seeking Unity in a World of Dualities

Howard Ikemoto

DATESDec 5, 2009 to Mar 7, 2010

RECEPTIONDec. 11, 7:00-9:00pm

Artist's Site

Visiting Info


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The journey inward is fraught with the unexpected and, for those willing to make the journey, rewarded with insights into the human condition more profound than the mere notations of cultures, histories, and events. So it has been for artists, philosophers, scientists, poets, seers and all who view beyond the transient veil of our ever-changing vistas. In the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries for instance, legions of landscape artists recorded the pastoral and urban settings of their world, detailed the fashions and aesthetics of their times, and even documented the minutia and color of the era, but while we may admire and even revere those artists today for their unwavering recording of the world around them, it is those rare artists who saw beyond the surface scenery and transformed the landscape into metaphors of the transcendent that we now look back upon as the great portrayers of the true human experience.

Artists such as Claude Loraine transformed the landscape into contemplative essays on the relationship between man and nature. Caspar David Friedrich captured the spiritual connection of all things of this world, sentient and otherwise, and great Romantics such as Joseph Mallord William Turner elevated the landscape to become searing commentaries on the painful divisiveness of humanity as reflected in the tumultuous skies. Later, with the advent of 20th century abstraction, artists abandoned even the semblance of the object in favor of the creative process of moving paint to capture the emotion and ultimate truth of our inner natures.

Howard Ikemoto is the rightful inheritor of those painters and poets who dared to make that inward journey, having long since made that quest himself.

For more than 34 years Ikemoto guided and taught students to explore their artistic sensibilities as painting instructor at Cabrillo College. It was a guidance of example as he continued to innovate and explore his own visions as an artist. While it is true, no doubt, that a good number of his thousands of students gained sound instruction in the application of paint, color theory, form, composition, and all of the other elements that provide the basis for becoming a competent painter, it is the mentorship Ikemoto provided, exploring the ideas and power of art that his most successful students remember most.

Ikemoto’s own journey through life well prepared him to become the artistic seer he is today. Growing up Japanese in Sacramento, and for a time interned with his family in the Tule Lake Internment Camp during WWII, Ikemoto understood the dualities and inequities of life.

Even as a child, however, drawing and painting the scenes surrounding his enforced home, Ikemoto began to employ art as a means of seeing beyond his confines. Ikemoto felt decidedly an outsider, but after visiting Japan to seek his ethnic heritage he realized he was indeed quite American. The search for personal identity is one of the factors that drove this artist to create. The results, as can be seen in this exhibition, are canvas after canvas of loosely rendered landscapes or free flowing abstractions, each of which portray the great lessons gleaned from a lifetime of looking inward: namely that the artist is neither the boy to be excluded from a greater nationalistic society, nor the young man seeking cultural identity only to discover he is not of that prismed world either. Howard Ikemoto’s paintings show a man whose vision has transcended such polarizing precepts and has come to the realization that he and his world and his art are one.

In one of the sutras from the ancient Buddhist texts there is a passage that recounts the journey of the seer from a world of apparent dualities (good/evil, light/dark, excluded/included), to the realization that once one can see beyond such illusions, the world, indeed the universe is entirely connected, and none of us are apart. The visionary who can see past the pairs of opposites has reached the yonder shore of what the Buddhists would call nirvana, but it is the artist who continues to illuminate the rest of us on our own shores who transcend the mere pushers of paint to become the great artists, the great teachers of our day.

It is of interest to note that several of Ikemoto’s paintings in this exhibition depict empty boats adrift on still waters. In Meditation, 2008, the vessel is unoccupied and unmoored, free to drift to either shore. The artist is absent, perhaps having already disembarked, but fortunately for us he renders the scene as both a lesson into seeing the unities between artist and viewer, excluded and included, this nationality and that, and as an invitation to each of us. The inward journey waits if only we are willing to take it. Howard Ikemoto has, and he has returned to teach us all.

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