Organized by Indra K. Lācis, PhD
Director of Exhibitions
Synthesizing performative and photographic processes, Mimi Kato’s most recent body of work, Wild Corporation, explores the dynamics of power in female relationships through large digital prints and surreal sculptural objects made from everyday office supplies. Coming of age in in Japan during the 1980s and ‘90s, Kato was taught to accept society’s remaining gender inequalities as simply inevitable. While many women were urged to assume Japan’s non-career tracks (Ippanshoku), women who pursued leadership and managerial positions (Sōgōshoku) often ignited powerful feelings of resentment and conflict amongst women in the workforce. Incorporating her personal experiences with corporate Japanese culture as well as her life in the United States, Kato’s work contests boundaries and patriarchy, while also examining rivalries between women.
Piecing together a rich and darkly humorous fictional narrative, Kato’s female characters hunt, take hostages, and lash out against one another, fashioning their arms from staplers, rubber bands, zip ties, rulers, thumbtacks, binder clips and the like, all while donning laughably impractical skirts and vests. Turning the expected feminist script on its head, Kato’s larger-than-life visual sagas in Wild Corporation feature two tribes of female workers who, with little hope of career advancement, turn against one another to battle it out. Despite the aggression at work in these narratives, the series culminates in an epic sea hunt during which the female teams work together to take down the social structure that seeks to keep them submissive and sparks their antipathy against one another.
Taking inspiration from Japanese theater, especially contemporary Butoh and traditional mask theater, Kato’s work combines the aesthetics of Japanese landscape tradition and visual approaches that combine aerial views and multiple, simultaneous perspectives. Merging these approaches with a pluralistic approach to contemporary art making includes photography (shot with a vintage 35mm camera and handheld remote control), performance, as well as costume construction, prop design, and drawing.
About the artist: Mimi Kato (b. 1974) grew up in Nara, the 8th century capital of Japan before it moved to Kyoto in 794. During her late teens, Kato began to live primarily in the United States and this split cultural experience is deeply relevant to the creation and meaning of her work. Solo and two-person exhibitions of Mimi’s work have been staged at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina; Nicole Longnecker Gallery in Houston, Texas; SPACES in Cleveland, OH; Roswell Museum of Art, NM; Ballina Arts Center in Ballina, Ireland; McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas; Dallas Center for Contemporary Art and Conduit Gallery in Dallas, Texas; Ripon College, WI; Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan; and Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work has been included in a variety of group shows at such venues as the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC; Cleveland Institute of Art; International Photo Festival in the Canary Islands; Wichita Fall Museum of Art, Texas; New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana; and at numerous other venues in San Antonio, Galveston, Houston, and Austin, Texas. Mimi Kato earned her MFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her BA in photography at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.
To see Mimi working in her studio: https://www.columbiamuseum.org/view/mimi-kato-ordinary-sagas
Opening reception & preview for lenders, exhibition partners, Richmond Center members and Frostic School of Art students: TBA MyWMU.com/FriendsofRCVA