Excerpts from reviews and catalogue essays

Even a maelstrom has some kind of structure. Michiko Itatani, born and raised in Japan and an artist and professor in the US since the 1970s, always mines that territory between the physical and the metaphysical, between what we think we perceive around us and what we suspect might underpin it, between the specific and the astral, as for Itatani, they always partake of each other. She's rather a force of nature herself; this exhibition contained 69 works from the last seven years, many of them large, and culled from her ongoing series such as HyperBaroque, Pattern Recognition, Moon Jar, CTRL-Home/Echo, Cosmic Theater, Shoin (a Japanese interior architectural form), and others. These, and this exhibition's title, convey a bit of the frenzy Itatani conceives to be seething around us, this strange and changeling yin-yang between chaos and order, between the specifics of the appearance of the world and the currents that surge in and around it.

James Yood
exhibition revies - Michiko Itatani: "Cosmic Kaleidoscope" at Linda Warren Projects
Art Ltd, Nov/Dec, 2013



Michiko Itatani is on a spiritual quest, not just in her current paintings, but in the entire sequence of nine themes that have spanned forty years of her career. With titles like “Movement,” “Body,” “Self/Others” and “Micro/Macro,” she has systematically explored the natural and human world within and without.

Chris Miller
exhibition review - Michiko Itatani/Walsh Gallery
New City, March, 2010


Almost yearly since the late 1970s, Michiko Itatani has had at least one solo exhibition of her paintings and sometimes more. Her shows have typically been complex installations that featured huge multi-paneled canvases with insets, and oddly shaped paintings that flowed all over the wall and onto the floor. While Itatani’s work has always been grandly ambitious, she says that her concerns have remained “quite consistent” throughout her career, “always personal and humanistic...

Victor M. Cassidy
exhibition review - Coming to Terms
Art Slant, March 1, 2010


Though sheer physical presence is obvious upon entering Chicago-based Michiko Itatani’s solo exhibition at the West Loop’s Walsh Gallery, these oil paintings exude a warmth rare in works of Abstract Expressionist scale. Her palette of warm blacks, browns, beiges, whites and pastel blues punctuated with bright, saturated colors employed to articulate her geometric forms, prime our experience of the autobiographical, “Personal Codes,” which successfully merges a private, meditative practice, with a generous, external language. Systems, here, are key for an understanding of Itatani’s content, as her own explicatory formal language harmoniously permeates throughout the exhibition.

Robin Dluzen
exhibition review - Michiko Itatani at Walsh Gallery
Chicago Artists Magazine,  Feb 22, 2010


…Michiko Itatani made the apt visual comparison between theater architecture and the night sky. In painting that portray both simultaneously, she explores the play of light in vast spaces of darkness and the sense of grandeur and drama it elicits…

Margaret Hawkins
exhibition review - Cosmic Theater, Flatfile Galleries
Art News, June 2006


Every so often, Michiko Itatani has introduced startling representational images into her abstract paintings. In her recent works at Flatfile Galleries she has done so again. The paintings are interiors of elaborate buildings that seemingly are sites of paranormal activities.

Alan G. Artner
exhibition review - Cosmic Theater, Flatfile Galleries
Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2006


…It’s probably the nature of life to try to impose order in the face of overwhelming chaos, to privilege reason over forces we cannot fully reckon or understand. Michiko Itatani is an artist who is, however, differently inclined, intrigued by chaos because she never considers it as chaos at all, instead as just hose forces we imperfectly comprehend, those parts of the cosmos we must somehow expand our consciousness to understand. In her art she senses swirling and multiple aspect of being, suggests simultaneously the physical and the metaphysical, invokes the material and the spiritual, and understands that we only partly glimpse the stupendous universe of which we are a tiny, but crucial-to us, anyway- part. She seeks secret harmonies, those pulses of energy that just might be at the root of it all. While most of us live more of less fully, more or less comtentedly, in the microreality of our lives, Itatani is somehow drawn to the macroreality of existence, to the pursuit of those larger systems we can only dimly see-but see we do-on the periphery of consciousness.

James Yood
catalogue essay for Michiko Itatani -Visual Signs/Witness
H.F. Johnson Gallery, Carthage


…Michiko Itatani culls the images for her monumental, multipanel oil paintings from her observation of culture, technology and the humanbody….. Elegant and cryptic, Itatani’s abstract imagery is guided overall by a poetic sense of rhythm and balance.

Garrett Holg
exhibition review - Surface Tension/Territory, Flatfile Galleries
Art News, May, 2004


…Itatani describes her working process in terms of writing, composing each phrase, paragraph, and chapter. Over the course of her career she has become a painter who writes paintings and a writer who paints novels.

Michael Rooks, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
catalogue essay for Infinite Remnant, Dawm Museum of Contemporary Art


…Viewed through the lens of ensuring events, Itatani’s grappling with the transitory took on a new and largely un anticipated degree of emtonal resonance. Yet, in their spareness, these works offered a profound sense of peace of acceptance, as if to counsel that none of what the human eye sees, or the human hand creats, is enduring or real. The only constant is the infinite expanse of white space, and with it, the terror and promise of possibility.

Krinten Brooke Schleifer
exhibition review – Contemplative Inquiry, Printworks
Art on Paper, July-August, 2002


...It’s not surprising to hear Itatani talk animatedly about the play Copenhagen she saw on her latest trip to New York. She loves literature and writes fiction herself, but this play seems particularly special because it’s about Niels Bohr and the physicist most important to post war artists - Werner Heisenberg. In his book Physics and Philosophy, Heisenberg could be writing about Itatani’s work when he explains both the perceptual and structural experience of things. "The world", he writes, "thus appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture and the whole."
... Simply put, his theory is that the presence or absence of an observer alters the outcome of scientific experimentation. It seems an apt metaphor of Itatani’s engagement with painting. She eagerly explains how her paintings demand the presence of an observer, and how that presence activates them.
...It’s this indeterminate space between positions (and oppositions) of knowing and not knowing that structures her painting and makes it so compelling. It is at once resolute and full of doubt. It is, as she says, "under inquiry"...

Debra Parr
catalog essay for Michiko Itatani
The University of Missouri Saint Louis


Something is happening in Michiko Itatani's paintings, something of enormous consequence, something cataclysmic yet strangely reassuring—weirdly hopeful...
...There is an enormous sense of positive energy in Itatani's hard-driving pictures, but also of loss and abandonment: the inconsolable figures are abandoned or lost in space, which, however energized, cannot restore them to wholeness. Indeed, fragmentation, and a longing for a wholeness that is not to be, is everywhere in Itatani's work. This sense of the ill-fitting, the discombobulated, the unsettled exists in every Itatani picture, whether part of a series or an independent work. At the same time there is a consistent system or economy of abstract and figurative signifiers—both are used as formal devices, indeed, emblematically—which however compulsively repeated, are idiosyncratically combined to form a dense, eclectic, devious unity. This larger contradiction—between irreducible contradiction and absurd integration—is indicative of Itatani’s postmodern mannerism. Itatani has made us witness to a tense gnostic drama...
...For all their brilliant intellectuality—their calculated, ingenious quality, Itatani's works have a life and death, do-or-die honesty and idealism—emotional as well as intellectual intensity and sophistication.

Donald Kuspit
catalog essay for Michiko Itatani - Fragments of Change
Tokoha Museum, Japan


...But how come no one else sees it? Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s them. Maybe it’s an exact vantage point between you and the lines, the fragmenting spaces, the white and the dark...
...I won’t tell you how it ends other than to say Itatani doesn’t dream paintings and that these things are as real as they look. This is your present, and fortunately or not, your immediate future.

Jerry Saltz
"A real allegory for the recent paintings of Michiko Itatani"
catalog essay for Michiko Itatani - Tangent Space
Gallery B.A.I., NYC, 1996
Charleston Heights Art Center, Las Vegas, NV, 1997
Frauen Museum, Bonn, Germany


...Michiko Itatani is clearly of her time in addressing the issues of fragmentation and continuity as an inescapable fact of twentieth century life. The themes of physical and spiritual confinement versus transcendence are effectively used as examples of dualities within a united whole. These outer and inner voices form the pulse of our life experiences. Ms Itatani’s important works speak to this struggle within the human condition and our attempts to make sense out of chaos.

Ed Paschke
catalog essay for the exhibition Ed Paschke/Michiko Itatani
Wright Museum of Art, Wisconsin


...Michiko Itatani possesses a fervent belief in the power and necessity of painting. Itatani engages painting as a tool to construct a tenuous relationship between the manifestations of order and chaos, and between spirit and struggle. Most importantly, perhaps, Itatani’s paintings evoke the complex balance that exists within her own multi-faceted personal culture.

Neal Benezra
catalog essay for Michiko Itatani
Muskegon Museum of Art, Michigan


...Her painting has been idiosyncratic from the beginning, because it was not her expected profession but something discovered after her arrival in the U.S. Her intention was to study philosophy, and perhaps it is the philosophy, and perhaps philosophical approach to experience - observing, comparing, weighing, analyzing, looking for relationships and consistencies and meaning, turning both the phenomenon and the expression of it over and over in search for resolution - that underpins her art...

Janet Koplos
"The Sea of Uncertainty"
catalog essay for Michiko Itatani - Paintings since 1984
The Exhibit Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center


...Their desperation and the artist’s powerful statement of powerlessness are kept in check by the repeated, methodical movements of the delicate but strong nets. There is a calculated tension, but Itatani ultimately jettisons oppositions by pressing them together into difference - between aesthetic styles, between sexes, between times and cultures.

Judith Russi Kirshner
catalog essay for Michiko Itatani
Alternative Museum, New York City

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