Jan. 30, 2024

Nickle Galleries launches winter season with 1st comprehensive survey of the work of Harry Kiyooka

Celebrated painter and printmaker was known for building community within Calgary’s art scene
An abstract painting of multicoloured lines on a black canvas
Harry Kiyooka, Black Quiet, Oil on canvas, 1963 Herringer Kiss Gallery

On Feb.1, community members and art enthusiasts are invited to Nickle Galleries to celebrate the remarkable career of artist Harry Kiyooka at the opening of HARRY MITSUO KIYOOKA – Artist. Educator. Activist. (1928 – 2022).

Kiyooka was an admired visionary within Calgary’s art community and became one of Canada’s most celebrated painters and printmakers. He passed away last year at the age of 94. Kiyooka was also a professor in UCalgary’s Department of Art for 28 years. During this time, he was a staunch advocate for establishing the BFA, MA and MFA programs at UCalgary. 

“Harry Kiyooka’s impact on the contemporary visual art landscape of Alberta cannot be overstated. He studied abroad and brought hard-edge abstraction and minimalism to Alberta,” says Deborah Herringer Kiss of Calgary’s Herringer Kiss Gallery, who represented Kiyooka’s work for the last years of his career. 

“He was a fundamental driver in the development of the arts program at the University of Calgary by recruiting international artists to come and teach here. He was a powerhouse arts administrator who pushed forward the contemporary art agenda.”

Kiyooka was married to artist Katie Ohe, UCalgary alumna and the sculptor behind many familiar pieces such as the iconic Zipper in the hall outside UCalgary’s science theatres.

A self portrait done in oil of an older man with white hair and glasses, wearing an orange shirt on a dark blue canvas

Harry Kiyooka, Self Portrait, 2019

Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Kiyooka’s works spans various media and his artistic journey has been characterized by a bold and innovative approach with a focus on pushing boundaries and challenging traditional norms. His creations often reflect a deep connect to his Japanese-Canadian roots and his experiences growing up in Alberta. 

“Harry Kiyooka was one of those creative individuals who made a difference in Calgary's cultural makeup,” says Mary Beth Laviolette, exhibition curator. "Kiyooka's legacy of 70 years of art is an engaging story about perseverance and creativity. His beautiful paintings surprise and awe. His geometric abstracts have a sterling place in Canadian art."

Kiyooka’s hard-edge abstract period is his best known nationally and is a major feature of this retrospective. It celebrates nearly 70 years of his art, covering other lesser-known subjects such as his portraiture, earlier work and his lifelong preoccupation with Italy and especially La Serenissima: Venice.

Opening reception 

Thursday, Feb. 1 
5:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

Nickle at Noon lecture

Feb. 29 - Tour: Mary Beth Laviolette – curator’s tour of HARRY MITSUO KIYOOKA 

Curator’s tours

March 22
April 13

HARRY MITSUO KIYOOKA – Artist. Educator. Activist. (1928 – 2022) is curated by Mary-Beth Laviolette,an independent curator and writer with a visual art practice spanning 40 years. Laviolette will offer a number of tours during the show, which runs until April 27. 

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