Yoshitomo Nara

2 jun 2007
10 okt 2007
  • 12:00 -18:00
  • By
  • GEM
  • +31703381133

The GEM is extremely proud to present the first ever solo show to be held in any European museum by Yoshitomo Nara (b. Hirosaki, 1959), one of today’s leading Japanese artists. As a representative of the Japanese pop art of the nineties, he gained worldwide fame with seductive figurative paintings, drawings and sculptures, all executed in a deliberately elementary style. The emphasis in this presentation will be on recent work, most of it produced especially for this occasion, exhibited in a unique architectural setting developed by Nara in collaboration with design collective Graf.

Super flat

‘Super flat’ is the term sometimes used to describe the deceptively simple visual strategy adopted by Nara and other Japanese artists of his ilk. At first sight, the human figures and animals that appear in his work look merely cute, but ultimately their main fascination lies in the tension and aggression they conceal. Nara’s apparently innocent yet covertly menacing depictions of children seem to express an undercurrent in Japanese society, with its rigid social structures. Recent acts of shocking violence committed by children in Japan add to the topical relevance of his work. It is probably this combination of innocence and conflict that makes Nara’s work so irresistible to young Japanese and that, together with his general attitude to life, has led to his current cult status in Japan. As well as being an artist, Nara is also a pop musician and a designer of T-shirts, CD covers, fanzines, buttons, dolls and other lifestyle products. ‘I live in and with my art’, he says. In his work, he draws on a medley of sources, including pop culture, comic strips, manga and other Japanese and Western artistic traditions. Between 1988 and 1993, Nara lived in Germany, where he studied as a Meisterschuler at the academy of art in Düsseldorf.

Over the last few years, Nara has frequently collaborated on exhibitions with Japanese design collective Graf. Their jointly developed concepts for compelling architectural settings enable Nara to impose his personality on the shows. The fairytale urban ‘experience spaces’ they design are memorable in their own right. The artist constructs miniature studios, gives a peek at his weird and wonderful collections, offers sudden glimpses of murals and displays his sculptures via ‘peepholes’. In this major exhibition in The Hague, Nara continues his partnership with Graf. Together they will fill the entire upper floor of the GEM with structures composed of recycled building materials. The wooden sheds and lighthouse that they intend to erect in the GEM will be constructed almost entirely on-site. The members of Graf will work for six weeks in industrial premises in the Binckhorst, with the help of volunteers and students from The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art (KABK), on the preparations for this vast site-specific installation.

The exhibition will be documented in a book authored by Roel Arkesteijn and launched this autumn at a special book presentation in the GEM.