Acrylic on canvas, 45 x 40 inches, 1966
Matsumi (Mike) Kanemkitsu (American 1922-1992)
Kanemitsu was proficient in four separate media: sumi, or Japanese ink drawing; watercolor; lithography, and painting on canvas. His painting was done with acrylics, using a complex technique that involved brushing, staining, pouring and glazing to achieve abstract imagery that often reflected landscapes and the forces of nature.
He also worked all of his life with Japanese sumi ink and brushes, maintaining that the dramatic effects of color painting could also be achieved in black and white, and the gradations between them. In 1961 he earned a Ford Foundation grant to work at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles and readily translated the techniques he had learned in sumi painting into lithography. He exhibited widely throughout the United States, and his work is owned by a number of public institutions in this country and Japan. World War II Experiences.
Kanemitsu was born on May 28, 1922, in Ogden, Utah, to Japanese parents. He was taken to Japan at age 3, and grew up in a suburb of Hiroshima. He came back to the United States in 1940, enlisting in the United States Army in 1941. But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was arrested and sent to a series of Army detention camps. With art supplies provided by the American Red Cross, he began to draw with pen and ink and pastels. Eventually, he was released from surveillance and volunteered for overseas duty as a hospital assistant in Europe. His Army tour ended in 1946.
In the postwar years, Kanemitsu came to New York and studied at the Art Students League with the Japanese painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi. He began to associate with the practitioners of the growing New York school — Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, among others — who inspired his work in black-and-white watercolors. By 1960 he was exhibiting at galleries in New York and Los Angeles, and in 1962 his work traveled with the Museum of Modern Art show “14 Americans.”
Eventually settling in Los Angeles, Mr. Kanemitsu taught at the Chouinard Art School from 1965 to 1970, and from 1971 to 1983 at the Otis Art Institute there. In 1990 his lithographs over a 30-year period were presented in the museums of four Japanese cities.