Contemporary Artist Ryo Toyonaga’s First Museum Retrospective Opens this Fall at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon

On view from October 11, 2014 to January 4, 2015”Awakening” is accompanied by a catalog with essays by Helen Drutt English, Suzanne Ramljak, and curator Lawrence Fong.

EUGENE, Ore. -- (July 16, 2014) – The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon presents “Ryo Toyonaga: Awakening,” the first major museum exhibition of the New York City-based contemporary artist. On view from October 11, 2014, to January 4, 2015, the exhibition surveys twenty years of ceramic and mixed-media sculpture, drawing and painting.


Featuring the haunting, surreal work of Toyonaga, “Awakening” is organized by Lawrence Fong, the JSMA’s former curator of American and Pacific Northwest art.  The exhibition opens with a free, public reception on Friday, October 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. On Saturday, October 11, at 2 p.m., the artist, Fong and historian, gallerist and collector Helen Drutt English, will lead a gallery talk.


Toyonaga’s imagery is drawn from a wellspring of recurrent dreams,” says Fong. “The result is a surprisingly original world that fuses technology and nature into mysterious hybrid forms.”


The exhibition is comprised of nineteen medium and large-scale paintings and drawings and a companion survey of Toyonaga’s ceramic and papier-mâché sculpture. Accompanying the exhibition is a catalog featuring images of the work, and essays by Fong, Drutt English, and art historian Suzanne Ramljak. The fully illustrated catalog discusses the artist’s early influences and reflections on modern and contemporary art as well as the evolution of his imaginative and interpretive powers.


“The work of Toyonaga evolves from within, emerging from the depths of the earth and the edges of his soul,” writes Drutt English.  Fong adds, “His art acknowledges an inherent friction between man and nature and feeds that ‘conflict’ by creating unique forms and narratives.”


Toyonaga was born in Matsuyama, Japan, in 1960, and earned his BA in psychology from the National University of Shinshu, Japan. He moved to New York City in 1986.  During the 1990s, Toyonaga worked exclusively in clay. As the organic energy flowed and changed within his imagination, the artist expanded his vocabulary of expression and materials, including the introduction of red wax in 2002 and bronze and aluminum casting in 2004.


With an interest in expanding the perception and scale of his works, Toyonaga began exploring large-scale papier-mâché in 2005. Following his solo show of sculpture and papier-mâché at the Charles Cowles Gallery in 2006, his artistic interest shifted to drawing. At his second solo show at the Charles Cowles Gallery in 2009, he exclusively showed drawings. Since 2010, Toyonaga has concentrated on large-scale acrylic paintings on canvas.


“When you work with clay, you feel the world,” says Toyonaga. “When you draw, the tormented ‘creatures’ can stay; they are happy on canvas. One feels responsible and attached to these creatures. One wants to create a bigger world, and the ability to make large drawings enables me to create a larger world. One cannot extricate the creatures from the paintings; their chaos is frozen by the two-dimensional form.”


Support for “Ryo Toyonaga: Awakening” is provided by the Coeta and Donald Barker Changing Exhibitions Endowment, The Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and JSMA members.


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of six museums in Oregon accredited by the American Association of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,