Toko Shinoda was a true star, shining brightly until her death at 107. This major retrospective brings together over 120 exhibits in a comprehensive view of her oeuvre, much of which is surprisingly unknown.
For over seventy years, Toko Shinoda pioneered and explored the distinctive field of abstract expression using sumi ink from the vantage point of avant-garde calligraphy, all the while maintaining a proud independence. Born in what is now Dalian, China and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Shinoda threw herself into calligraphy out of a desire to lead a life of independence. After World War II, she travelled alone to New York when she was in her forties, greatly expanding her range of activities. Her work garnered much attention and was highly acclaimed at a time when there was mounting enthusiasm for new forms of expression and a resonance between Western abstract art and Japanese avant-garde calligraphy. After returning to Japan, she achieved and maintained unrivalled status, using sumi ink to establish a completely new, distinctive approach to abstract expression with a rich sense of time and space, at times almost architectural in scale, without being confined by conventional distinctions between calligraphy and painting or words and images. Shinoda also established distinctive forms of expression in the world of lithographs, and she was a talented and much-loved author of essays that were backed by her formidable grasp of culture and learning, refined sensibilities, and clever critical spirit. This exhibition, one year after her regrettable passing at the age of 107, presents 115 works and a number of other items in a comprehensive overview of Shinoda’s long career, and examines the broad range and contemporary nature of her work from today’s perspective.