Yoshitomo Nara (奈良美智 Nara Yoshitomo , born 5 December 1959 in Hirosaki, Japan) is a Japanese artist. He lives and works in Tokyo, though his artwork has been exhibited worldwide. Nara has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984. He is represented in New York City by Pace Gallery, in Los Angeles by Blum & Poe and in London by Stephen Friedman Gallery
Background and Education
Nara received his B.F.A. (1985) and an M.F.A. (1987) from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music. Between 1988 and 1993, Nara studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, in Germany.
"Nara first came to the fore of the art world during Japan’s Pop art movement in the 1990s. The subject matter of his sculptures and paintings is deceptively simple: most works depict one seemingly innocuous subject (often pastel-hued children and animals drawn with confident, cartoonish lines) with little or no background. But these children, who appear at first to be cute and even vulnerable, sometimes brandish weapons like knives and saws. Their wide eyes often hold accusatory looks that could be sleepy-eyed irritation at being awoken from a nap—or that could be undiluted expressions of hate."
Nara, however, does not see his weapon-wielding subjects as aggressors. "Look at them, they [the weapons] are so small, like toys. Do you think they could fight with those?" he says. "I don’t think so. Rather, I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives…" Lauded by art critics, Nara’s bizarrely intriguing works have gained him a cult following around the world. In June, 2005, Nara's artwork was featured in the album titled "Suspended Animation" by experimental band Fantômas. Other commercial products (including videos, books, magazines, catalogues and monographs) have been dedicated to Nara’s work. Recently, a two-volume catalogue raisonné of all his sculptures, paintings, and drawings was completed.
In 2010 the Asia Society showed Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool the first major New York exhibition of his work. Other major retrospectives include: "I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me", which toured Japan between 2001 and 2002; and "Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens," which traveled the United States from 2003 to 2005.
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The manga and anime of his 1960s childhood are both clear influences on Nara's stylized, large-eyed figures. Nara subverts these typically cute images, however, by infusing his works with horror-like imagery. This juxtaposition of human evil with the innocent child may be a reaction to Japan's rigid social conventions.
The punk rock music of Nara's youth has also influenced the artist's work. Recalling a similar – if more unsettling – image of rebellious, violent youth, Nara's art embraces the punk ethos. That said, Nara has also cited traditions as varied as Renaissance painting, literature, illustration, ukiyo-e and graffiti as further inspiration.
But perhaps most significantly, Nara’s upbringing in post-World War II Japan profoundly affected his mindset and, subsequently, his artwork as well. He grew up in a time when Japan was experiencing an inundation of Western pop culture; comic books, Walt Disney animation, and Western rock music are just a few examples. Additionally, Nara was raised in the isolated countryside as a latchkey child of working-class parents, so he was often left alone with little to do but explore his young imagination. The fiercely independent subjects that populate so much of his artwork may be a reaction to Nara's own largely independent childhood.
- Yoshitomo Nara at Stephen Friedman Gallery
- Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool at Asia Society Museum, New York
- Blum & Poe Gallery
- Yoshitomo Nara at Johnen Galerie
- Small gallery of Nara images
- Essay about Nara and his artwork
- Short biography of Nara and catalog of merchandise
- Yoshitomo Nara at Marianne Boesky Gallery
- Informational site with two galleries of Nara's work
- KultureFlash interview (03/2006)
- San Jose Museum of Art | UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS
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- Yoshitomo Nara
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