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Ron Miyashiro

American, b. 1938

Concord #10

Wood, found objects, and pogment
16.5 x 6.125 x 8.875 in.
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

Ron Miyashiro is perhaps the least famous and certainly the most mysterious of the four artists in the 1961 War Babies exhibition at the Huysman Gallery in Los Angeles. Jerry McMillan’s cheeky publicity photograph presents the four with foods and utensils associated with their religions and ethnicities—Jewish Larry Bell chewing on a bagel, African American Ed Bereal eating a slice of watermelon, Catholic Joe Goode with a tin of mackerel, and the Japanese American Miyashiro holding chopsticks—gathered around a table draped in the American ag. Like McMillan’s photograph, Miyashiro’s Concord #10 corrals highly charged cultural symbols and condenses them into a single potent artwork.

This modestly scaled wall-mounted sculpture is assembled from machined wooden parts and decorated with a pair of Christian crosses and the smallest touch of papier-mâché. Except for portions of the two metal crosses, the artwork is entirely black. Its prominent central component invokes the mechanical world of boat rudders and airplane tail ns, as does the rounded, camlike base from which it extends. But because the sculpture is symmetrical along its vertical axis, with paired elements reading as eyes and nostrils, it also evokes the living world, suggesting the head of a shark or perhaps even a human-animal chimera.

Concord #10 is one in a series of sculptures named for the street in Los Angeles where the artist maintained his studio. The artwork does not, however, deliver on the peaceful promise of its title. Instead, its sinister militarism registers the anxieties of the Cold War, while its African tribal affinities align Miyashiro with the struggle for civil rights and racial equality in the United States. Deeply coded even then, its political referents have grown yet more remote with the passage of time, while its unsettling effect on its viewers is as powerful as ever.

Tom Jimmerson

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