“Evening Shimmer,” monotype on antique Japanese woodblock pages and collage
Unlike most galleries, with regular exhibitions rotating every few months, the Verne Collection showcases only one artist and exhibition per year at its gallery on Murray Hill Road in Little Italy. The rest of its efforts are focused on art fairs and exhibitions throughout the U.S. and annual trips to Japan to visit artists and purchase works. This weekend, the gallery hosts a Cleveland-based artist and its own gallery manager, Yuko Kimura. Yuko Kimura: One of a Kind opens with a reception from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 22. The following day, the Verne Collection hosts a gallery talk at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 23. During the talk, Kimura will discuss a specific work from her exhibition, Baba (My Grandmother).
“Baba is a nickname for my grandmother,” Kimura says. “It is short for Oba-chan. She lived until the summer of 2015, soon after she became 100 years old. She was a very warm person who was very creative, and taking care of her family was most important to her. One of the important things that I learned from my Baba was to value small things in daily life. She was able to add value to small things by using her hands. She enjoyed cooking, sewing clothes for her family and gardening each day. She had a very simple lifestyle. She didn’t throw away anything. Even a small piece of fabric or food, and she was able to re-use them to create something new. She didn’t spend much money, but she was able to make everything beautiful in her own unique style…When she was still alive, every time I visited her in Tokyo, she gave me her fabrics and dress patterns for my artwork.”
Kimura was born in Oakland, California, but was raised by her Japanese parents in Tokyo. Kimura’s father Noby was born in Japan but his family moved to northern California when he was 12. Her mother Tomoko came to America with $200 in her pocket after receiving a two-year scholarship to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art in the early 1960s. After college, her parents returned to Japan when her father began working for the San Francisco-based Determined Productions, in a Tokyo office that marketed Peanuts and Felix the Cat products in Japan. Kimura has lived in the U.S. since 1989, returning to Cleveland for college at the same school as her mother. Cleveland continues to play a major role in her work.
Living and working in Cleveland for nearly 30 years, Kimura’s intimate, delicate works are the result of her unique, interdisciplinary process. Kimura’s recent work includes aquatint and etching processes of traditional printmaking pulled at Zygote Press on handmade paper created by the artist at the Morgan Conservatory. Kimura has printed at Zygote Press twice a week for more than 15 years, and visits the Morgan Conservatory once or twice a year to make paper. Although these premier organizations are only a mile apart, Kimura is one of only a handful of artists to utilize both with such mastery. Additionally, Kimura incorporates old, worm-eaten book pages from Japan, and often utilizes her grandmother’s hand-drawn dress patterns in her prints and collages, using stitching with thread as a form of drawing,
Kimura explains, “The way of putting together my work is unique because I work in multiple locations. I put fragments of prints on paper in my briefcase and travel around with it. I print at Zygote press and I make paper at the Morgan Conservatory… I focus on working intuitively in the present; learning from the piece through the simple act of making. My recent work incorporates multiple processes, including etching, aquatint and dyeing with indigo on pleated or twisted paper. Most of the work utilizes old worm-eaten book pages from Japan and handmade papers that are made from Kozo, Gampi and Abaca Fibers. Transparency, form, and texture all take priority as I construct my two- and three-dimensional patchwork experiments.”
Kimura’s artwork resides in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Morikami Art Museum and Tama Art Museum. She was awarded the prestigious Agnes Gund Award in 1994, the same year she graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art. In a world that is continuously getting faster, busier and louder, Kimura’s compositions are enchantingly quiet and still. In 2006, New York Times art critic Benjamin Genocchio wrote, “There is usually too much available and none of it is very good, but occasionally you hit upon something tasty and out of the ordinary like Yuko Kimura.”
Kimura’s first interaction with the Verne Collection was just after graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Art nearly three decades ago, but no one could have known then that she would become such an integral member of the gallery’s staff.
“I met Yuko about 27 years ago when the gallery was located at John Carroll University,” says Michael Verne, president of the Verne Collection. “She had just won the Agnes Gund Award. She showed me the artwork that won the Agnes Gund Award. I asked if I could sell it for her and possibly represent her. She looked blankly at me and gave me the work to sell. I sold it in about one week. I had never sold a work of art by a new artist quite that quickly. I sent her a check right away and I asked if she had anymore prints for me to show at the gallery. I told her how important I was and how important the gallery was in Japanese prints, but I did not hear anything back.”
It wasn’t until 15 years later that Verne and Kimura reconnected. Verne was searching for a new gallery manager who spoke Japanese. After hearing she may be interested, Kimura was the only candidate Verne interviewed, and not just because she was the only one who applied or the only one who could speak Japanese.
Reflecting on Kimura’s history with the gallery, Verne says, “Shortly after she was hired I asked her if she wanted me to try and sell some of her one of a kind, handmade prints. I showed them nationally for the first time in New York at the Armory. She completely sold out. I told her that no other artist I represent had ever done that. She looked at me blankly. We then travelled to exhibit at Art Basel at Ink Miami and the same thing happened. It would happen in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Naples and Washington D.C. I had never seen anything like it.”
Splitting her time between the gallery and her studio practice, Kimura often brings her collage materials with her on frequent trips with Michael Verne on behalf of the Verne Collection.
“Sometimes when I travel with Michael, for example at an exhibition in Los Angeles, we have a few hours before we are going to have dinner at a secret restaurant with his famous nephews James, Tom and Dave Franco. As we wait to find out what restaurant, I just work on small collages. Everyone at the restaurant knows who they are, but nobody recognizes Michael or me.”
“Meanwhile back at the gallery, I would ask Yuko to do simple things like move something to the right or get someone's name and phone number when they called,” Verne says. “She looked at me blankly. About two years ago, I finally asked Yuko if she understood anything I said. She looked at me blankly. I then said in Japanese ‘Watashi no eigo wa wakarimasu ka?’ which means ‘Do you understand my English?’ She said no. I sighed, and I realized I had found the right person Someone who couldn't understand what I said, someone kind, someone gentle and quiet like her work, and possibly the next great artist in the world of Japanese printmaking. She is truly ‘One of A Kind.’”
Offering local collectors the first opportunity to purchase these new works, Verne will exhibit Kimura’s work in New York, Washington D.C. and Naples later this year. On view for the first time, the exhibition includes “one of a kind” works from Kimura’s Indigo Mountain, Shoji Screen, Baba, Journey Through Mushikui (wormhole), Snoopy, Shiwa Shiwa (Wrinkle Wrinkle) and Wabi Dog series.
Free parking is available for Saturday’s opening reception in Lot 47, located just steps from the gallery (look for the signs). Yuko Kimura: One of a Kind remains on view at the Verne Gallery through August 20.
(Verne Collection) 2207 Murray Hill Rd., 216-231-8866, vernegallery.com.