Yoshitomo Nara: “Nobody’s Fool” at the Asia Society
You have plenty of time to see this show which is up through January 2, 2011. Nara is a leading artist of Japan’s Neo Pop art movement. The children and animals he uses as subjects make his work popular to a broad audience. This is the first major exhibition of his work in New York City. Working in a variety of mediums including painting, drawings, sculpture, ceramics and installation, there are over 100 works on view from his early career in the 1980s to the present. In addition to the work in the museum itself, two large sculptures named “White Ghost” can be found on Park Avenue just outside of the museum.
Nara spent a great deal of time alone as a child and found comfort in music and art. He was drawn to rock and punk music and the link between his love of music and his art is emphasized in this exhibition. There are 100 album covers from Nara’s own collection on display. Also on view is a collaborative playful installation by YNG and Nara that includes brightly colored platforms, a dollhouse-like structure, and music playing in the background. Another collaboration on view is “Drawing Room between the Concord and Merrimack” which gives the viewer a sense of the atmosphere of Nara’s studio as one peeks into windows and doors of shack structures.
Nara uses dogs and children in his work because of their submissive nature. They represent loneliness and the fragility of innocence for the artist. In 1988 Nara moved to Germany to develop his own style. It was during this time that he began to rid his work of all background details and focus on his subjects. In 2000 he moved back to Japan after defining his signature style. The characters he creates are often his alter ego; we can all relate to the solitude that runs as a constant theme in his artwork.
“Remember Me” is particularly haunting due to the large-size of the red-headed child that confronts the viewer popping from the dark blue and purple glittery background. The children in works like this often show no emotion but their large glassy eyes manage to convey an intense sadness. While there is something disturbing about these images, there is also something extremely precious.
Nara’s titles often make reference to songs in order to aid in viewers relating to his work. “Little Ramona” (the reference is the Ramones) from 2001 is an eye-catching work. It reminded me of an Anish Kapoor work in its size and concave shape. Nara’s work also captures the notion of kawaa, cuteness meshed with creepiness.