Ray Yoshida Unaccountable Structures II (1976)

University Club of Chicago

Yoshida unaccountable structures 1976

Born in Hawaii, Yashida spent most of his career in Chicago working as an artists and educator at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

He was a leading member of the “Chicago Imagists,” a group of artists who came to fame in the 1960s and 1970s by creating distorted and emotional representation art. His painting approach was influenced by comic books, as well as folk art.

Known for his collage style work, his painting feature graphic elements, created by grouping tiny shaped details from the world around him, including human elements, architecture, fabric and often identifiable objects in meticulous rows and columns.

Yoshida’s works can be found in collections around the world. In the United States, his work is in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Museum of American Art. Both the artist and his works have been referred to as “enigmatic, mysterious, and witty.”

Unaccountable Structures II (1976) is from the period when Yoshida shifted his attention from collage to acrylic paint.

The abstract work consists of eight vertical forms that stand across an ambiguous brown background.

The eight slender totem-like forms are each intricately rendered with busily detailed lines and interconnected geometric shapes. The systematic placement of these structures across the horizontal canvas references the grid-like design of his collage work from the 1960s, but with less density.

As the artwork’s title suggests, the structures’ identities or contexts are unaccountable. Yet, each one is granted individual markings that imply a specific visual identity. It is in this space between anonymity and individuality that the structures hold their mystery. Reading the canvas from left to right, the third structure from the left highlights this visual technique. It’s complex combination of lines and shapes are the most direct reference to a human figure, with the top of the form referencing the profile of a head and the bottom implying a torso and legs.

Yet the structure is abstracted enough that it is up to the viewer to acknowledge or discard any anthropomorphic tendencies. The entire artwork is rendered in the same dotted application of layering bright blue, orange, yellow, and other colored paint onto the canvas.

Once combined, these layers produce the muted tones and textured quality of his painting. In this application, Yoshida flattened the figures and background onto the same plane and restricted any suggestion of depth.

Unaccountable Structures II captures a distinct moment in Yoshida’s career, as he transitioned from collage to painting, while continuing to master his play with abstraction, form, line, and narrative.

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