• Recollections on Display

    Date posted: January 7, 2009 Author: jolanta
    A towering influence on the evolution and iconography of Japanese contemporary art, Tadanori Yokoo has straddled the boundaries of commercial and fine art since the 1960s. His brilliance lies in his ability to weave mass imagery into complexly layered pictorial tableaux that trigger collective and personal memories. Yokoo’s appropriation of imagery and initial emergence during the American pop movement has linked his work to artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but it is his ever-evolving stylistic agility that has enabled him to captivate, communicate, and remain relevant to an enormous popular audience for over a half century. A central figure in the Tokyo avant-garde, Yokoo creates accessible
    poster and graphic work that was universally recognized, as were his
    collaborations with most of Japan’s best-known underground
    personalities, including filmmaker Akiro Kurosawa and writer Yukio
    Mishima.
    Image

    Friedman Benda Gallery

    Image
    Tadanori Yokoo, Those Flowers, These Spring, 2004. Oil on canvas, 71.57 x 89.49 inches / 181.8 x 227.3 cm. Courtesy of Friedman Benda Gallery.

    A towering influence on the evolution and iconography of Japanese contemporary art, Tadanori Yokoo has straddled the boundaries of commercial and fine art since the 1960s. His brilliance lies in his ability to weave mass imagery into complexly layered pictorial tableaux that trigger collective and personal memories. Yokoo’s appropriation of imagery and initial emergence during the American pop movement has linked his work to artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but it is his ever-evolving stylistic agility that has enabled him to captivate, communicate, and remain relevant to an enormous popular audience for over a half century.

    A central figure in the Tokyo avant-garde, Yokoo creates accessible poster and graphic work that was universally recognized, as were his collaborations with most of Japan’s best-known underground personalities, including filmmaker Akiro Kurosawa and writer Yukio Mishima. With them and in his own right, he upset mainstream trends and championed subversity in an entire generation of dancers, poets, and visual artists.

    This past fall Yokoo’s exhibition at Friedman Benda Gallery highlighted selections from a number of important bodies of work that incite a sense of cosmic wonder and universal consciousness, and speak to the potential for spiritual transformation through art. The paintings are animated and painterly, and proliferate with non-sequential imagery, derived from sources ranging from childhood dreams, personalized fears, and impressions of his often-imaginary indigenous landscape as well as Japanese historical and Western classical painting. By dissolving notions of time and conjuring notions of other worlds, he merges the real with the imagined, and activates the imagination of the viewer with his surreal, kaleidoscopic realities.

    With the Y-junctions, Yokoo presents dimly lit, distorted renderings of pedestrian crossroads in order to raise greater metaphysical questions about life. These paintings are poetic renderings of light and color that bring a sublime beauty to even the most mundane of urban landscapes. In his Red Paintings, he sets figures in unidentified fire-hot environments, where the seeming incandescence produces an effect at once haunting and optimistic. The Bathhouse series references a traditional Japanese scene, but so thoroughly loads the works with conflated imagery that the vernacular is rendered unrecognizable. All of Yokoo’s recent works speak to our contemporary world of stimulation and dissolution of borders, and possess disarming narratives that evoke the experience of memory.

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