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 Yoshitomo Nara  (1959 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California / Japan/Germany      Known for: mod child figurative, animal

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Ad Code: 1
Yoshitomo Nara
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Yoshimoto (some spell it Yashitomo) Nara was born in 1959 in Hirosaki, Japan and has exhibited extensively in the United States as well as Japan and European countries.

Using a style combining the effect of Japanese prints and Pop Art cartoons, he paints solitary, doll-like children to comment upon the decline of society, East and West.   To Nara, children symbolize a world marked by confusion and anxiety about an unknown future.  Since 1988, he has divided his time between Japan and Germany, where he studied art.  He sees himself as a voluntary exile.  Because art schools and museums were conservative in Japan, Nara, also a sculptor working in a similarly simplistic style, studied contemporary art on his own there as a young man, eventually seeking exhibitions abroad.

He describes his earliest years as a "latch key child," coming home alone to his family's empty house.  Nara's themes of childhood mixed with irony take their source in Japanese comic books.  In 1998 Nara commented, "so-called real art had lost its reality. It always represented a mediated or reproduced experience as seen in books and magazines. The real visual experiences I had as a kid were not from looking at oil paintings but instead captured through reading my weekly manga comics or watching cartoons on TV."

Nara's big headed, wide-eyed little girls are larger than life, painted in pastel colors on rectangular or rounded concave canvases. They puff on cigarettes, brandish knives and guns, stand in boxes or fly in space cars, sometimes in association with kimono-clad figures straight out of Japanese prints, as if trying futilely to relate to an adult world or a past traditional culture.

Nara exhibited in 2001 with twenty-five other Post-Modernists in Public Offerings, a show put on by the Geffen Contemporary branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California.

Also in 2001, the Yokohama Museum of Art put on a mid-career retrospective exhibition, "I Don't Mind If You Forget Me", which toured Japan.  Nara was also included in a virtual exhibition, "Cream 3: 10 Curators - 100 Artists - 10 Source Artists", in which ten curators selected ten artists each.

Nara also depicts sad dogs and puppies in his art.  A large fiberglass public sculpture of a dog, aptly named Your Dog, stands in Tompkins Square Park, on New York City's Lower East Side, creating a watering station for other dogs from the tears falling from its eyes.  Other creative projects are artists' books and clothing lines that feature his little girl and puppy designs.

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