RAY YOSHIDA’S MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY VALUES
Through February 2, 2014
John Micheal Kohler Arts Center. Pentimenti Productions 2013
Ray Yoshida (1930–2009) taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for nearly four decades and had an indelible influence on generations of artists, including the Chicago Imagists. With his guidance, students learned to look beyond the confines of Western art, to explore source material that would propel their work into something unique to their experience. Whether it involved examining form in the array of African masks at The Field Museum, contemplating color in the weird and wonderful treasures at Maxwell Street Market, or understanding line in the works of self-taught artist Joseph Yoakum, Yoshida’s idea was to instinctively follow the eye to whatever ignited artistic sensibilities.
While credited with mentoring and teaching many, Yoshida was guardedly private, and little has been recorded about his life. His home environment—a kaleidoscopic assemblage of artifacts and works of art— provides critical insights into his world. For Yoshida, Chicago was the city of objects and images—with never-ending connections that triggered ideas and creative energy. Through his collection, Yoshida offered a new way of looking at and valuing objects and works of art, even if they had yet to be appreciated by the larger art community. Folk art, manufactured goods, ﬁne art, and tribal pieces—all were extracted from their previous contexts. Once “rescued” into his home, the previous lives of the objects dissipated, new interpretations arose, and exciting conversations ensued. His home environment as presented inspires visitors to make personally meaningful and creative connections with the material world and challenges viewers to connect with their daily surroundings as catalysts, to be voracious observers, and to train the eye to what ignites creativity.
To honor Yoshida and his extraordinary legacy as an artist, teacher, and collector of all things interesting and undervalued, the Arts Center has created five exhibitions and supporting programming under the series title, THE OPEN EYE. The series aspires to stretch viewers’ ability to receive the messages conveyed through imagery found in our everyday surroundings, much as Yoshida did. The series thus applies the language of art making— line, form, color, shape—to the vernacular. The Art Center is also pleased to present a short documentary about Ray Yoshida and his collection, Seton Coggeshall's The Individuality of the Inanimate Object: The Home Collection of Ray Yoshida (1990). This revealing 13-minute film is screened in a continual loop in the gallery, offering additional insight into the collection and the artist.
Following his death in 2009, the Arts Center received Yoshida’s entire home collection of more than 2,600 objects and works of art. RAY YOSHIDA’S MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY VALUES presents, for the very first time, the entirety of his finds. The contents of his Chicago apartment at 1944 Wood Street have been sectioned into nine tableaux that are based on site visits, interviews, and photographs made during his life as well as after his death. In this way, the integral relationships among the objects and works of art are presented as they existed in the apartment. In the gallery, more than 60 works created by Yoshida surround the collection, making manifest the connections between the collection and the artist’s eye. Shown in the context of the artist’s paintings and collages, the exhibition offers a stimulating and unprecedented glimpse into the artist’s process and surroundings.