Go See: Yoshitomo Nara, at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, through January 31, 2008

January 10th, 2009

Installation view of Yoshitomo Nara at Blum and Poe, Los Angeles, via Blum and Poe

Yoshitomo Nara’s sixth solo show with Blum & Poe features a new series of paintings and drawings, as well as a large scale sculptural installation of a prairie wagon that is as Old West as it is Modern. The wagon’s interior features a number of items: drawings, stuffed animals, and found or specially selected objects–designed to evoke innocence and nostalgia, although the subtle hint of menace usually found in much of Nara’s work is absent here.

The other pieces of the installation by the Japanese pop artist also weave in allusions to the old American West and Manifest Destiny: two paintings resembling billboards feature young girls, one playing a guitar, the other depicted alone surrounded by the words “So…how can you tell me you are lonely?” The installation reflects Nara’s and Japan’s post-war fascination with American pop culture as well as Nara’s childhood as an only child of blue collar parents, often left to his own creative devices due to his parents’ long work shifts.

Acrylic paintings in an adjacent room are typical of Nara’s oeuvre, featuring children with large eyes, more often than not alone. The eyes convey a wide array of ambiguous emotions, including fear, warmth, defiance, elation, and boredom, often in combination. The children’s eyes in the most recent paintings take on a more haunting, glassy yet somehow inviting appearance than in previous pieces due to the creative application of different colors, textures and materials. The color departs  a bit more from the pastels that have become Nara’s trademark, while the texture of the pieces differs markedly from the oil, pencil, and crayon-like pieces he has become known for, putting a new twist on a very intriguing artist who has become a star in his own country, much like his contemporary Takashi Murakami.

through January 31, 2009
Blum and Poe
2754 La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA

Exhibition page: Yoshitomo Nara at Blum & Poe
Press release: Yoshitomo Nara at Blum & Poe
Yoshitomo Nara at Marianne Boesky Gallery
Yoshitomo Nara – Artnet Profile [Artnet]
A critical essay on Yoshitomo Nara [AssemblyLanguage]

Installation view of Yoshitomo Nara at Blum and Poe, Los Angeles, via Blum and Poe

Yoshitomo Nara was born in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, and later studied art at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts in Tokyo, gaining a BFA and an MFA from that institution. He later moved to Germany, where he studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, and later lived in Cologne.

He began to garner attention in the 1990s as a pop artist whose work was deceptively simple, laden with subtext under a veneer of naivete. His subjects are almost always children, depicted alone, often brandishing objects–including knives, scissors, saws and other dangerous items–that often contradict their cuteness and vulnerability. Nara maintains that the children are not aggressive, although they may appear threatening. Instead, he proposes that the viewer is in fact the aggressor, and the sharp objects are simply the children trying to defend themselves from assaults on their innocence.

Nara is represented by Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, and Blum and Poe in Los Angeles. He has had 40 solo exhibitions since 1984, and his works are part of the permanent collections of several renowned museums worldwide. He now lives and works in Tokyo.

Installation view of Yoshitomo Nara at Blum and Poe, Los Angeles, via Blum and Poe

Installation view of Yoshitomo Nara at Blum and Poe, Los Angeles, via Blum and Poe

Untitled (2007) by Yoshitomo Nara, via Artnet

Untitled (2007) by Yoshitomo Nara, via Artnet

Untitled (2006) by Yoshitomo Nara, via Artnet

Star Island (2004) by Yoshitomo Nara, via Artnet

In the cloud (2003) by Yoshitomo Nara, via Artnet

Yellow in blue (2005) by Yoshitomo Nara, via Artnet