2014 Frieze Art Fair: Yoshimoto Nara from Japan to the Great Britain
Japan is a country that has undergone an extraordinary (for more than a century) and a strong modernization following the Western model: it has, now, reached a unique style which seem to be quite eclectic. Japanese culture surprisingly developed more and more its visual culture in a strong and characteristic way. Passing through different artistic styles, contemporary Japanese artists want to be recognized for their true nature and not for old stereotypes. No surprises, therefore, that the recent animations works of Hayao Miyazaki are exported all over the world with great success, leaving viewers in awe for their innovative imagination. And have not to be forgotten photography, painting, drawing or Japanese architecture.
Contemporary art has certainly reflected a minor universal success than animated films but still, it is slowly emerging and showing quite good quality researches. In the Japanese contemporary art there are severals genres and much more are the applied techniques (photography, graphic design, sculpture, etc.). In fact, the tools used are often a product of the reflection on the world carried on by the artist: in fact, sometimes, the form explains much more than the content itself.
The designs of Takashi Murakami, for example, are described as flat or superflat for the technique that he uses. He creates his paintings with the help computer with which draws simplified plane colored figures, with external lines rather large. The technique of superflat, however, evokes further flattening or even eliminations leading to the gradual dissolution of the differences between genders or between popular and refined culture. Kyoichi Tsuzuki, instead, uses photography for fixing the meeting of social models.
The emerging of Japanese pop art is an expression of particular interest to the whole world of contemporary art. Playing with innocence, fear, anger, surprise, and all their colorful shades, this artistic researches have become worldwide famous.
The most important artists of Japanese pop movement are certainly Yoshimoto Nara and Takashi Murakami. Both are inspired by the culture of manga. Murakami finds inspiration in traditional and popular culture and analyzes the influence they have in the existence of contemporary Japanese population. He emphasizes the wonderful world of the childhood and its impact on the art scene. Murakami's paintings are of bright colors, often missing in content and, therefore, were also defined superflat. The Japanese pop art could be characterized as the Japanese way in researching the artistic impact of childhood even though it is often marred by typical manga’s irony.
Yoshimoto Nara is a Japanese artist. Born in 1959 in Hirosaki, today is one of the biggest names on the contemporary scene internationally. Looking at his works is easy to understand why gained so much notoriety so fast: Yoshimoto Nara belongs at full to Japanese Neo Pop. In fact, since the eighties, he was inspired by pop culture and imagery of anime. But his art is also an anti-Kawaii, his works is very reminiscent of Takashi Murakami, but, at the same time his artistic research hold quite an unique touch.
Starting from the traditional Japanese prints and the design of manga and cartoons he brought out personal and totally innovative views if compared to the traditionail designs. The themes found in his works are mostly inspired by rock and punk. For this, in his paintings and sculptures, emerge rebellion, anger and alienation. No surprise then the subjects depicted, namely small girls so reminiscent of Japan, were all intent to smoke, like real rock star. Shorty, the subjects, the theme and eventually the techniques are all connected as a creative mix completely original by Yoshimoto Nara.
The appearance of traditional female figures, sullenly, are all engrossed in their thoughts, struggling with a cigarette. At first they appear cute and vulnerable, but there is hatred in their eyes, as if they were malignant, almost looking accusingly at the viewer.
In additions to cigarettes, Yoshimoto Nara adds some weapons such as knives and saws, but, as pointed out by the same artist, they all look like toys and the girls could never do harm to anyone. These girls, drawn pastel colors, have become his best knonwn pieces and it is hard not to recognize them at first sight. They have a wide forehead, large eyes and a characteristic facial expression. As the stars of uncertain reality show, they look to the future with confusion: they are alone in the middle of a society in decline, as suggested by the provocative words that the artist often included in his illustrations.
Yoshimoto Nara also likes to realize, singular small toys: funny, curious animals. Real miniature sculptures that can be bought on the web. In his art, Yoshimoto Nara is pointing only to the sensations, the emotions transmitted and lived by his characters. For this reason he minimizes the context of his representations: in fact, often it is just a monochrome background. These artistic urgency have its origin in his existence.
His childhood was marked by loneliness and indeed this state of isolation continued even when he moved to Germany, mainly because of the language barriers he had faced. However this was, at the same time, the very begin of his work. This solitude had brought the representation of subjects almost iconic symbolizing the helplessness of man in a fast-paced society. Yoshimoto Nara likes to emphasize the negative aspects and the discomfort of man constantly connected to web media in spite of an increasing social break down. In his works there is rejection and rebellion against community conventions. At the same time, however, his messages and strong phrases written in the paintings, serve, also, as an invitation to wake up, aimed primarily at contemporary youth. Listening to the Seventies Rock groups, like the Ramones, pushed him to create his philosophy, in contrast to the traditional schools he had to attend, and the very same album covers, which Yoshimoto Nara avidly collected, are to be recognized as iconographic model for his artworks.
Each realization is created with a provocative intent: Yoshimoto Nara aims to attract the attention of all of the art audience and tries to communicate to the collective consciousness the urgency of a change against social alienation that is pushing humanity in a no return journey.
On occasion of the largest exhibition dedicated to this artist (since 1984 there has been almost forty), was published the first monograph on Yoshimoto Nara. Created in collaboration with the Asia Society Museum, the book documented twenty years of works: not only paintings and sculptures, but also sketches and works that have never been exhibited. Have been collected more than four thousand images and various texts written by the artist himself and, among others, even by the writer Banana Yoshimoto. In addition to this monograph, is worthy of mention the film about the journey that Yoshimoto Nara had taken along with Hideki Toyoshima, AtoZ Team and all those who participated to the exhibition AtoZ to Hirosaki. It is a documentary that traces the artist's creative process, a film that crosses the reality described in his works and the places he had imagined. In one word, his universe.
the exhibition Nothing ever happens in particular, organized by Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art, went around the United States between 2003 and 2004 a huge success and dramatically increasing the popularity of the artist, already famous since the early nineties.
An atmosphere of confusion, tension and rebellion thus characterizes the works of Nara, whose purpose is to represent the uncertainty and vulnerability of the age of childhood and preadolescence, and evil that adults can cause to children with their behavior, by downloading on them their arrogance and projecting on them the violence that adults are themselves often suffer. In the works by the Japanese artist, at the expense of appearance, are therefore the children the real attackers, but adults. Nara does not see the weapons challenged by the children as potential instruments of aggression: look at them, said in an interview, they [the weapons] are so small, like toys. Do you think they could fight with Those? I do not think so. Rather, I kind of see the Children Among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives. The artist claims that the weapons are challenged by children is so small as to seem toys, fake weapons with which you can not fight; rather he sees these children are surrounded by adults and bad wielding weapons larger and with which they can do them harm. The small players, children and animals, embody in a sense the anger, impotence and the cruelty of the world in which they are forced to live and which are struggling to defend themselves.
One of the most important exhibitions for Nara also one of the most important to spread to Western audiences his works of art it was, certainly, the White Ghost. Since the start of the pop movement Yoshitomo Nara has won numerous international awards for his distinctive figurative style: drawings, sculptures and paintings by Nara are now kept in the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York, on display at the CAC Malaga in Spain and at the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia. A giant sculpture of concrete, 9 meters high, depicting a dog, is permanently installed at Aomori Art Museum in Japan.
The mixture of vulnerability, rebellion and hopelessness that characterize the work of the Japanese artist, eventually connected the people living on the globe. Yoshitomo Nara was among a long list of celebrated artists who have exhibited at Park Avenue in New York City, under the auspices of the Fund for Park Avenue Sculpture Committee's and the municipal administration. Among others in the past have exhibited works in the Park Avenue Malls sculptor like Botero, Deborah Butterfield, Robert Indiana, Jun Kaneko, Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne and George Rickey. It is a tradition, a New York flagship, the artistic decoration of the rich and elegant Park Avenue that has started since 1967 and that was handed down in collaboration with arts organizations and artists who have produced hundreds of public art projects in parks, squares and streets of the Big Apple.
This year there are three sections: the Main Section, for galleries presenting a program of international artists; the Focus Section (ie the evolution of Frame), is dedicated to young galleries and emerging artists with monographic projects and finally the Live section, is formed from those galleries who are presenting works participatory or live performances within an exhibition context.
Since 2003, the year of its establishment, Frieze Art Fair is completed with a full program of events and talks, site-specific projects or acts presented for the first time here in London (such as "Teatro Disability" Jérôme Bel), activities teaching to approach children to contemporary art and, eventually, the Frieze artist Award that is given to an emerging international artist. The winner of the 2014 is Mélanie Matranga, born in 1985, the first French artist to receive the important Award. Around the Fair structure, open and free to the public, is staged the Sculpure Park, whose curator (Clare Lilley) is the same as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the largest in Great Britain.
At Dairy Art Centre is instead scheduled on the largest retrospective ever devoted, in Britain, to Yoshitomo Nara.
The exhibition includes many recent works, some works have never been exhibited before, paintings, sculptures and a collection quite unique of designs covering his 30-year career. The exhibition has started on October the 15th until 18th.
It was a pretty unique and valuable opportunity to appreciate the artistic research of one of the most interesting contemporary artists of the moment. Yoshimoto Nara is certainly an important exponent of the artistic world and his works, now more than ever, are able to communicate forcefully to a worldwide audience.
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