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Matsumi Kanemitsu: Just like Sunshine, Like Moon


“Instead of developing a nostalgic alternative or trying to step outside of [his]complicated, entangled history, Kanemitsu tried to live in the present with all its contradictions.” - John Yau                                 


Matsumi Kanemitsu (1922-1992) was born in Ogden, Utah, but spent his childhood with his grandparents in Hiroshima, Japan. He moved back to the United States in 1940 and joined the U.S. Army in 1941, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor soon led to his arrest and confinement in detention camps. Devastating as that experience must have been, Kanemitsu began drawing with art supplies provided by the American Red Cross and eventually made his way to Europe as a military hospital assistant. After his tour of duty ended in 1946, he stayed in Europe for two years, studying with Fernand Leger in Paris, meeting other prominent artists, including Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, and visiting art museums.

Kanemitsu returned to the United States in 1949 and plunged into New York’s postwar art scene, famously populated by artists such as Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, John Chamberlain, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and dealer Leo Castelli. But as a student of Japanese painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League, he also kept in touch with his cultural heritage. In the early 1960s Kanemitsu moved to Los Angeles, which became his final home.

Kanemitsu has been the subject of numerous institutional solo exhibitions, including exhibitions at The National Museum of Art, Osaka and Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (1998), Yamaki Art Gallery, Osaka (1990), and Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles (1978) among others. He participated in the 1956 Whitney Annual at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 14 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1962); and more recently, Asian/American/Modern Art: Shifting Currents, 1900-1970 at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (2008). Kanemitsu received numerous grants and fellowships, including awards from the Ford Foundation; the Longview Foundation; University of California at Berkeley; and the Honolulu Academy of Art. He taught at Chouinard Art School and Otis College of Art and Design, both in Los Angeles and Cal Arts in Valencia. 

His work is represented in public collections around the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Hiroshima State Museum of Art; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among many others.


Louis Stern Fine Arts, located in West Hollywood’s Design District, focuses on Mid-Century West Coast Geometric Abstraction and represents the estates of the artists who defined the California Hard Edge movement: Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg, and Karl Benjamin. The gallery also holds works by other influential Mid-Century abstract painters including John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley, Roger Kuntz, Matsumi Kanemitsu, and Ynez Johnston.

In addition to its exhibition program, Louis Stern Fine Arts has had a long and successful involvement in the secondary market, with a special concentration in Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern and Latin American art. As director of The Alfredo Ramos Martínez Research Project, Stern oversees the development of the catalogue raisonné for the artist.

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