18 March – 31 July 2005
Junko Chodos: The Breath of Consciousness

free public opening reception with the artist, Friday, 18 March, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
hours and directions


Interplanetary Icon No 11

Interplanetary Icon No. 11, 1990.
Mixed media on paper. 23 x 19.5 in.

Junko Chodos: The Breath of Consciousness, curated by MOCRA director Rev. Terrence E. Dempsey, S.J., is Japanese-American artist Chodos' first Midwest exhibition. It surveys the predominant themes and media in her oeuvre. The exhibition title references a recurrent image in her work, the lungs. In part originating in her personal history (a childhood battle with tuberculosis), this prevalent metaphor also takes on universal resonances, signaling the significance of breathing in the world's faith traditions-as a connection to life itself, and as a vehicle to practices of meditation, contemplation, and inner awareness.

The earliest works included in the exhibition are exquisitely complex drawings of roots and dead flowers that evince both microcosmic and macrocosmic scale: Chodos elicits worlds of complexity from mundane subjects, leading the viewer to notice anatomical, architectural and theological associations. Similarly, Chodos' collages combine a density of myriad elements in a barely held stasis. It is a dynamic of turbulence and repose, as details are resolved into larger systems: ribcages and lungs arise from images of engines and horseshoe crabs, layered with quotations from Renaissance paintings. The exhibition includes select works from the 1991 series, Requiem for an Executed Bird, a powerful body of work that delves into the horror of violence, using a bird as a transformational symbol of innocence that falls prey to injustice and cruelty, but ultimately achieves hope and resurrection. The survey is completed by large scroll-like paintings on mylar. These works reveal the influence of the strong gestures of the American Abstract Expressionists and the spare, concentrated aesthetic of the calligraphers of Chodos' native Japan.
Junko Chodos was born Junko Takahashi in Tokyo, Japan, in 1939. She grew up in a highly cultured and well-educated family amid the turbulence of World War II. Early experience of the destructiveness of war would profoundly affect both her life and her art. She pursued art from a young age and enrolled at Tokyo's prestigious Waseda University, where she majored in Eastern and Western art history and the philosophy of art. She also took an interest in the writings of German Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. She moved to the United State in 1968 for studies at the State University of New York, Buffalo, and married lawyer and author Rafael Chodos in 1971. They reside in Topanga, California. Chodos' studies and unusual personal history have lent her work a global perspective. Her evolving artistic output reveals the influence of Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Joseph Cornell, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Mathis Grünewald, the Italian Futurists, and the master calligraphers of Japan. She has an appreciation of a number of the world's great religions, including Buddhism, Shinto, Christianity, and Judaism, an awareness complemented by curiosity about technology, biology, and the natural environment. Chodos has had solo exhibitions in America, Germany, and Japan.
Dead Flowers No 5
Dead Flowers Series No. 5, 1973.
Pen and ink on paper. 22.5 x 16 in.



 Junko Chodos stands out among today's artists for her unflinching look at life in its fullest sense. She embraces the sacred and the profane, uncovers beauty in ugliness, and maintains an openness to discovering hope and peace in a world of struggle and hardship.

—Terrence E. Dempsey, S.J.
Director, MOCRA

Museum of Contemporary Religious Art