Mistuko Tabe

1933 | Taitung City, Taiwan
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Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Mitsuko Tabe in her studio, 28 November 2011, Photo Kokatsu Reiko

Japanese visual artist.

Mitsuko Tabe was born in 1933 in Taiwan when it was under Japanese colonial rule. Soon after the Second World War ended, she settled in Fukuoka Prefecture, where she still lives.
Though known for being among the few female members of Kyūshū-ha, one of the avant-garde art groups that emerged in Japan from the late 1950s to the 1960s, her artistic activity has never been limited to the period or to this framework. She continued working until the 2010s, consistently developing her own original pieces.
Her earliest works were shown at the Kyūshū-ha group’s inaugural exhibition in 1957, and she continued showing her work in the group’s exhibitions until 1960, and participating and winning awards in open-call/juried shows.
Among the works recognised in these exhibitions were Gyozoku no Ikari [Anger of Fishes, 1959] and Hanshoku suru 2 [Breeding 2, 1958/1988], both employing a process that consists of melting asphalt and pouring it on a sheet of plywood, and then pasting bamboo rings on that sheet. Anger of Fishes was created against the backdrop of her fury towards the US hydrogen-bomb test that led to the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident in 1954, and also towards environmental pollution that led to tragic results such as Minamata disease.

M. Tabe’s major works from the Kyūshū-ha include Jinkō Taiban [Artificial placenta] and Placards, both created in 1961. The former was based on her desire for women to be liberated from their long pregnancies. It was created at a time when she had to keep on producing her work while pregnant. The installation Jinkō Taiban was shown in the Kyūshū-ha Exhibition in 1961 at Ginza Gallery in Tokyo. Consisting of three objects, each composed from the hip part of a mannequin, propped upside-down, into which cotton and ping-pong balls were attached, nails hammered in, and a vacuum tube inserted in place of the vagina, it was exhibited together with two objects representing foetuses.
The original five pieces making up Placards, which were shown in the same exhibition at Ginza Gallery, are now in the collections of museums in Tokyo and Fukuoka. These works, representing political and sexual advertisements, interweave with her interest in societal issues and eroticism. Her interest in the latter was symbolically expressed through employing kiss marks and women’s genitalia. As the supports of those pieces she used parts of a fusuma, Japanese sliding door, moving her artistic production beyond the conventional framework of a canvas.

After the Kyūshū-ha group dissolved in the 1970s, M. Tabe presided over the Kyūshū Women’s Art Exhibition for ten years (1974-1984). During the 1980s, she established the “Earth Post Office” while also executing her Mail Art project. In 1988 she declared herself “retired from being a housewife” and began to fully devote her time to painting. Beginning in the 1990s she predominantly focused on the motif of the “apple”, considering it to be the symbol of universe. She embarked on Ringo [Apple] series, composed of oil paintings and collages, and on the Shuwa [Sign Language] series, in which hand-sign gestures created from plaster were attached around the image of an apple in the centre.

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Reiko Kokatsu

Translated from Japanase by Taeko Nanpei.

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring


© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Gyozoku no Ikari [Anger of Fishes], 1959, oil, asphalt and bamboo on board, 130.2 x 162.2 cm, Collection of Fukuoka Art Museum

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Hanshoku suru 2 [Breeding 2], 1958/1988, oil, asphalt, plaster and bamboo on canvas, 92.2 x 130 cm, Collection of Fukuoka Art Museum

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe in front of her works, Placards and Jinkō Taiban [Artificial placenta], Ginza Gallery, Tokyo, 1961

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Jinkō Taiban [Artificial placenta], 1961

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Jinkō Taiban [Artificial placenta], 1961/reworked in 2004, mannequin, ping-pong ball, synthetic cotton, vacuum tube, electrical cords, metal nails, cloth, 49.8 x 49.4 x 41.8 cm (x3), Collection of Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Placard, 1961, printed matter, synthetic fiber, ink, lipstick, varnish on paper Fusuma, 86 x 93 cm, Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Placard, 1961, printed matter, brass, lipstick, ink, paint and varnish on paper Fusuma, 86.5 x 93.2 cm, Collection of Fukuoka Art Museum

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Marcel Proust’s Dining Table, 1995, collage on paper, 45.8 x 60.8 cm, Collection of Fukuoka Art Museum

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Sign Language, 1996/2010, oil, plaster, gold leaf and printed matter on board, 129.7 x 119.8 x 6.5 cm, Collection of Fukuoka Art Museum

Mistuko Tabe — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mitsuko Tabe, Looking for One and Only Existence, 2013, acrylic, charcoal, collage, gold leaf, platinum leaf on silkscreen print, 180 x 100 cm (x6), 180 x 100 cm (x3), exhibition view at Mitsuko Tabe New Works Show at Mizoe Art Gallery, Fukuoka, November-December 2013, Photo Kokatsu Reiko

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