Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959, Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan) graduated from Aichi University of the Arts with a master’s degree in 1987, completing further studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He resided in Cologne until 2000, when he returned to Japan. Since the mid-1990s, Nara has exhibited around the world and has worked with a range of institutions, from small independent art spaces to internationally renowned galleries and museums. For Nara, the type of institution or the size of a space matters less than how connected he feels with its environment. His approach to art is also similarly dependent on his sense of connection with its making. His paintings are expressions of color that breathe life into his bold images, his sculptures bear traces of his fingers that have shaped their forms, and his drawings capture the spontaneity of his daily thoughts. Nara has also exhibited his photographic works, which depict his life and travels.
Nara’s Puppy Love is on view, through May 2019, in Osher Plaza at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. His bronze sculpture Miss Forest, along with ten of the artist's ceramic works, are on view in the atrium gardens of Japan Society, New York, as part of their En/trance series, through 2020.
New York––Pace Gallery is pleased to present Thinker, Yoshitomo Nara’s first solo exhibition in New York since 2013. This exhibition features over fifty new works by Nara including paintings, sculptures, ceramics and works on paper. Thirty years after he first made his mark on the international art stage, the exhibition reflects on where Nara is now. The viewer is presented with an older Nara whose artistic practice embodies a meditative approach. Thinker will be on view at 510 West 25th Street from March 31 through April 29, with an opening reception for the public on Friday, March 31, 6 to 8 p.m.
As the artist shifts his focus to the materials, colors and conversations between his artworks, he allows that process to determine the final form of the work. With his new paintings, Nara continues to depict his familiar images of a single figure. They now emerge through layers of color, inviting the viewer to stand still with them and like the artist, have become more contemplative. Nara paints by adding and removing pigment until he reaches his desired effect: a canvas made up of suspended colors. He uses a similar process with his bronze sculptures, which he repeatedly builds up and carves away in layers. Nara hopes that these works, which he calls forest spirits, can outlast him and withstand the forces of nature that threaten the world as they did in 2011 with the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The jars and drawings in this exhibition uncover a different side to Nara. One of the few environments where Nara works with other artists, his jars are created at artist residencies and based on traditional Asian ceramic forms. These types of jars carry a communal spirit, but when Nara paints on them, his lively brushwork displays his playful nature. His pencil drawings are similarly revealing, experimenting with line to capture lightness, darkness, stillness and movement. While his ball-point pen drawings allow him to immediately express his thoughts and help him to think. Nara makes a drawing almost every day, and these sketches are his “time machines.”
It Comes in the Dead of Night – Midnight Thinker
By Yoshitomo Nara
When I focus my thinking, sometimes I slip out of normal time into a world with no clocks, as if in a time warp. In that frozen time, I begin a game of catch with the inspiration that comes from somewhere.
The sky throws me the ball; I throw it back to the sky.
The sky throws me the ball; I throw it back within myself.
The ball comes from within myself; I throw it back into myself.
The ball comes from within myself; I throw it back to the universe.
In any case, this game of catch isn’t with another person, but a conversation I have with myself, or a discussion with the universe. I gaze into the mirror, and become more conscious of myself and the world that spreads out infinitely around me.
Living in a countryside so rural that foxes wander about, I feel that eternity when it’s utterly dark outside, sometimes with the moon shining and the stars twinkling. Before I know it, the rock music blasting out of my stereo gets sucked away somewhere, and I hear only the voices of the animals and the sounds of the rain and wind.
To catch inspiration, I open my arms in my imagination, increasing the antenna’s sensitivity. The overwhelming solitude of those moments turns into pleasure, and lets me become one with the night. I pick up my brush before I lose that sensation, and have a conversation with the me that’s inside the picture.
In this city called New York, I will be presenting paintings, drawings, and sculptures born in these moments, along with ceramics I was so excited to create that it felt like a hobby. I hope that my inspiration reaches the audience.
Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959, Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan) After graduating from Aichi University of the Arts with a Master’s degree in 1987, Nara completed further studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and resided in Cologne until 2000 when he returned to Japan. Since the mid-1990s, Nara has exhibited around the world and has worked with a range of institutions, from small independent art spaces to internationally renowned galleries and museums. For Nara, the type of institution or the size of a space matters less than how connected he feels with its environment. His approach to art is also similarly dependent on his sense of connection with their making. His paintings are expressions of colors that breathe life into his bold images, his recent sculptures bear traces of his fingers that have shaped their forms, and his drawings capture the spontaneity of daily thoughts. Nara has also exhibited his photographic works to depict his life and travels.
Yoshitomo Nara lives and works in Japan. He has been represented by Pace since 2011.
2018. Pace Gallery. Hardcover
111 pages: 103 color illustrations; 11 ½ x 9 ½ inches