The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) has received a 2022 Bank of America Art Conservation Project grant to conserve “Two Running Horses (1932),” a four-panel screen by Chiura Obata (1885–1975). Obata is considered one of the most prominent Japanese-American artists of the 20th century. The work is one of 38 Obata works the UMFA acquired in 2021. “Weaving Eastern traditions into more contemporary and Western subject matter, the screen demonstrates the synthesis of Japanese and American art techniques and the artist’s mastery of sumi painting,” the UMFA’s press release says.
A prominent Japanese-American artist of the 20th century with a unique focus on the American West, Obata has remained relatively obscure until recent decades. Trained in Japan, he emigrated to and spent his life in the United States, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, and creating watercolors, sketches and prints that celebrate the quiet beauty of western landscapes. During World War II, a time of high anti-Japanese immigrant sentiment, he experienced forced resettlement to the internment camp in Topaz, Utah.
Obata’s work resonated deeply with Utah audiences in 2018, when a major retrospective, Chiura Obata: An American Modern, traveled to the UMFA. His work was also featured prominently in When Words Weren’t Enough: Works on Paper from Topaz, 1942–1945, the 2015 inaugural exhibition for the Topaz Museum in Delta.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.