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No.226 (12/28/12)

Yoshitomo Narat

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

Yoshitomo Nara, is a Japanese pop art artist, who has been exhibited domestically and internationally. You may have seen his artworks on the posters of animated children drawings in towns. He was born on December 5, 1959 in Hirosaki. After spending one year at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, he switched to the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music and received his B.F.A. in 1985 and an M.F.A. in 1987. After completing his studies in Japan, he pursued his art studies at the Staatliche Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf in Germany. Nara has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984. In 2010, his major solo exhibition "Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool" has been held in Asia Society Museum in New York.
In his work, Nara depicts children with defiant attitudes or anxious eyes. At first glance, people think these cartoonish artworks can be copied easily. However, if you actually look closely and carefully at his artworks, you would find his unique art touch and various colors of use. Their wide eyes often look cute at first and even vulnerable, but could look undiluted expressions of hate. He describes in his art as the children are small and innocent, like toys, and see them among aggressors, bigger, bad people, who are holding knives.
He has cited traditions as varied as Renaissance painting, literature, illustration, a Japanese classical art ukiyoe, and graffiti as further inspiration. Perhaps, most significantly, he grew up in a time when Japan was going through and inundation of Western pop culture; comic books, Walt Disney animation, and Western rock music are just some examples. Furthermore, he was raised in the isolated countryside in Aomori as a latchkey child between both working parents. That independent childhood naturally may have made him explore his young imagination.
Nara had been struggling by critics and misinterpretation in the late years. He said he was moved by something invisible power like emptiness after the Tohoku Region's Natural Disasters-311 last year. Then, he could not do anything for a while. He took some break from art. As he saw many music artists and popular people visited the disaster areas, he finally took quality of his time to think what he could do with his arts. He went back to the university in Aichi and worked with students. While he was in Aichi, he started sketching with a pencil and later created large bronze sculptures while spending a lot of his time with students and helping their projects and activities as if he was returning to his start point.
You can visit his exhibitions through January 14th, 2013. One is at Towada Art Center - Yoshitomo Nara: The Little Little house in The Blue Woods. The other one is at Aomori Museum of Art - Nara Yoshitomo: a bit like you and me…
Not only his traditional trademark artworks, but you can also find his incomplete artworks and process of unique works at these exhibitions. There are many people who had to change their lives and struggles with confusion and drastic change after the earthquake attacks. His latest art seems like telling people there is no need to rush and quietly being there for you. Towada Art Center is closed on Mondays and January 1st.
Aomori Mueum of Art is closed till December 31st, and on monthly second and fourth Monday. However, they are both open on January 14th due to the Japanese holiday and will be closed on 15th.

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