Ray Yoshida: The Secret Screenprints

Ray Yoshida, The Garden Island (c.1960), color screenprint monoprint on cream wove paper, image 48 x 43.7 cm, sheet 66.3 x 50.9 cm. Gift of the Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc., 2011.199. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography ©The Art Institute of Chicago.

Ray Yoshida, The Garden Island (c.1960), color screenprint monoprint on cream wove paper, image 48 x 43.7 cm, sheet 66.3 x 50.9 cm. Gift of the Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc., 2011.199. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photography ©The Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1994 or 1995, while researching artists for James Yood’s exhibition on the history of printmaking in Chicago at the Block Museum,1 I came across a few slides of screenprints dated 1959/60 by Ray Yoshida (1930–2009), a revered member of the painting and drawing faculty at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). One of the Chicago Imagists, Yoshida’s best-known paintings and collages display strong color, playful yet precise morphological manipulation of forms and a particular discernment for the graphic conventions of comics, pop illustration and the like. Ray was my colleague, someone I knew only peripherally, but it was exciting to consider an important discovery for the exhibition—I had no knowledge of Ray’s work before his breakout style of collage beginning in 1968. When I approached him about the slides and asked whether I might interview him about his printmaking, he curtly and definitively announced that he did not make prints and that I must be mistaken about the identity of the slides. Galled by this rebuff, I returned to the slide library at SAIC and found that the Yoshida section in the 20th century print drawer was empty. Knowing Ray to be impish, complicated and private, I assumed that he had removed the slides himself, and I chose not to pursue the question further. (Ultimately, he was represented in the exhibition with a single print, See, that had been printed and published at Arizona State University.2)

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  1. James Yood, Second Sight: Printmaking in Chicago 1935–1995, exh. cat. (Evanston, IL: Block Museum at Northwestern University, 1996). []
  2. Ibid., cat. 157, 69; illus. in color, 221. []