Jack Chikamichi Yamasaki


Name Jack Chikamichi Yamasaki
Born November 19 1904
Died November 14 1985
Birth Location Kagoshima, Japan
Generational Identifier

Issei

Jack Chikamichi Yamasaki (1904–85) was an artist whose media included oil painting, sculpture, and drawing. He was born on November 19, 1904, in Kagoshima, Japan, and immigrated at the age of eighteen to California, where he joined his father doing farmwork in the Imperial Valley. He moved to San Francisco in 1928 where he attended the California School of Fine Arts for the next three years, and was soon exhibiting his work at the Amateur and Professional Art Exhibition (1929), and the San Francisco Art Association, held at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1930, 1931).

In the summer of 1931, he shared a house with fellow students Hideo Benjamin Noda and Sakari Suzuki in Woodstock, New York. He also studied at the Art Students League in New York and exhibited in May 1932 at the Woodstock Art Association exhibition. Yamasaki was one of the fifty-four signers of the Call for an American Congress in 1936, a leftist group organized in opposition to war and fascism. While in New York, Yamasaki was included in several group exhibitions: Exhibition by Japanese Artists in New York, ACA Gallery, New York (1936); and the 31st Annual Exhibition of Resident Artists, Municipal Art Galleries, New York (1938).

He returned to the West Coast in the late 1930s and was living in Los Angeles in 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, which drew the United States into war. For the duration of World War II, Yamasaki was incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center in California, and then at Heart Mountain in Wyoming until 1945. While in camp, he created illustrations for the Heart Mountain Sentinel newspaper and painted a body of work that depicted scenes from his life behind barbed wire.

After he was released from camp, he worked as a civilian employee of the United States Army, and while on duty in India, China and Japan, he made sketches of his experiences. He eventually returned to Los Angeles, where he married artist Nobuko Yamasaki (maiden name: Mayamura), and worked as a gardener to support himself and continued to paint until his death. His work can be found in the permanent collection at the Japanese American National Museum.

Yamasaki died on November 14, 1985, in Los Angeles at age 80.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Japan in America: Eitaro Ishigaki and Other Japanese Artists in the Pre-World War II United States. Wakayama, Japan: Museum of Modern Art, 1997.

Japanese and Japanese American Painters in the United States: A Half Century of Hope and Suffering,1896-1945. Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum and Nippon Television Network Corporation, 1995.

The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945. Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum, UCLA Wight Art Gallery, and UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1992.