Yoshitomo Nara has unveiled his first series of ceramic sculptures at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo. Nara has been studying sculpture for the past year at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, where he created almost 20 pieces. Nara’s new work maintains his characteristic stylization of children, a trademark painter A.R. Penk has described as “angelic.” Like Nara’s drawings, his sculptures seem both innocent and disconcerting: lines are thick and simple, colors are bold and basic, eyes are either closed or blank. Nara’s subjects, however, often cry, bleed, possess fangs, and brandish knives. Of this conflation of puerility and severity, Nara explains, “I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives…”
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The expressions of Nara’s subjects range from cheeky to deferential, from wholesome to unnerving. The audience looks down on some pieces, as one would typically see a child, but stares up at the eyes of others, reversing the roles of the viewer and the viewed. Nara’s sculptures vary in scale, but each lacks a complete body: missing either arms or lower halves, they equate childhood with a frustrated prostration.
Hirosaki-born Nara works consistently in Japan, but has gained international fame by exhibiting in China, Thailand, Germany, Austria, England, Spain, America, and France.