Dec 6th 2022

Inside the Cabinet of Curiosities: Author Andrew Hui on Itatani, Borges and Leibniz

@ Wrightwood 659


Opening Tuesday, December 6th, at 7PM

On view through Saturday, December 17th

The paintings of Michiko Itatani conjure old-world fantasies of libraries, studios, cabinets of curiosities, and museums, interposed with sci-fi images of the galaxies. Western culture, ranging from the Library of Alexandria to Google Books, has been haunted by myths of ordered libraries, chaos, and the dangers of yearning to know and possess it all. How does Itatani’s work continue this tradition of metaphysical speculations? Andrew Hui, author and professor at Yale University and the National University of Singapore, answers this question by looking at beguiling examples from German philosophy and twentieth-century Argentinian literature, as well as representation of cultural spaces in the photography of Candida Hofer, Andreas Gursky, and Robert Polidori.

Andrew Hui is the author of Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature (2016) and A Theory of the Aphorism from Confucius to Twitter (2019), reviewed in The New Yorker and recently translated into Spanish, with Chinese, Arabic, Greek, and Turkish versions forthcoming. His newest work, The Study: The Inner Life of Renaissance Libraries, is under advance contract with Princeton University Press. In the 2023-24 academic year, he will be a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.

About the Exhibition

Wrightwood 659 is pleased to present Michiko Itatani: Celestial Stage, an exhibition of more than 60 paintings and drawings that reveal the Chicago-based artist’s fascination with humankind’s efforts to comprehend the universe and the inspiring grandeur of the unknown. Over the course of her 40-year career, Itatani has created a compelling body of work that is at once private in its inspirations, and outward facing in its engagement with the mysteries and science of the cosmos.

Itatani’s oversized paintings—often seven-by-eight feet or even larger—burst with an energy created by densely placed images, which serve as symbols of humanity’s eternal search for knowledge. Many of the painting depict “stages” where science and culture come improbably together: baroque bookcases with rockets, grand pianos and Japanese tea rooms, harps alongside helical staircases, and atomic models of electrons charging around nuclei. The effect is of an artist’s joyous exuberance and her wonder and awe at the world and beyond.

Michiko Itatani is Professor Emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), where she has taught for 40 years. She was born and educated in Osaka, Japan, where from an early age she was fascinated by the patterns and structures of science, learned traditional brush painting, and published poetry. She came to the U.S. in her early 20s, earning BFA and MFA degrees from the AIC (1974, 1976). Her work is represented in the permanent collections of public museums around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), Spain; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea; Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland; and the U.S. Embassy Brasilia, Brazil, among many others.

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