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 Hiro Yamagata  (1948 - )

/ yah-muh-gah-tuh/
About: Hiro Yamagata
 

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Lived/Active: California / Japan      Known for: pop-art commercial images, automobiles, lazar installation,

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information was submitted February 2006 by Norman Davies, art scholar and book dealer from Torrance, California.  His source is the book Hiro Yamagata Earthly Paradise, by Edward Leffingwell.


At the age of nineteen he left his home in Malbara, Japan near Kyoto, and began his travels.  First he went to Tokyo where he stayed for five years and assisted a professor and worked in advertising  as an illustrator for Coca Cola and Automotive companies.  Then he went to Milan, and at age 24, arrived in Paris in 1972.   There he met many writers and musicians that had some influence on his work, and he was introduced to the French Poet Jacques Prevert, whose influence took shape in Yamagata's paintings.

Yamagata said: "Everything is put in the image".   He does not express interest in talking about art, has no art theory, and doesn’t want to have one.   For him art is in the process of trying to break the mold, not in the drawings or paintings themselves.

His travels also included Morocco, Greece, Turkey, and Algeria, and then he moved to Los Angeles in 1978.  He continues to travel, and spends much time in Fiji.

Embroidered with imaginative narrative and detail, Yamagata's Los Angeles paintings often specifically recall a Paris that still attracts him, that recalls the years which for him remain the most exciting, the most meaningful.  In some of these paintings, the comic inversions of Botero-like figures pilot automobiles from another period.

In 1987 he decided to reverse the scale of this intimate work by presiding over the restoration and transubstantiation of the classic automobile and using its body as his canvas.  This was a painting he could complete, literally enter, and drive away.  At the time, he had no idea that this vision of the ultimate Los Angeles cruising machine would lead to others, and direct him towards making a group of "paintings" for an exhibition that might in some ways eventually alter the way art can be perceived.

Biography from American Sport Art Museum and Archives:
Internationally known among commercial-art enthusiasts for his pop-inspired faunal and floral imagery, Yamagata is best known in the U.S. as the poster designer for the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Committees.  He's also designed commemorative works for the Air and Space Bicentennial, the U.S. Constitution's Bicentennial, the Centennial Celebration of the Eiffel Tower, the Bicentennial of the French Revolution - and painted Ronald Reagan's presidential portrait. I n 1988, Hiro was commissioned by President Ronald Reagan to do a painting as part of the one hundred year anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty.

Hiro Yamagata was born in Shiga, Japan on June 30, 1948.  He was first interested in painting in elementary school and took a special art class every day after school and through high school with his art teacher, a Japanese-style painter.  After his graduation, he went to Tokyo and had part-time jobs in the advertisement field, where his talent was recognized.  In 1972, Hiro began attending L'Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris and began to live his life through painting.

Yamagata escaped to Paris in his early 20's, and met such persons as John Cage and more notably Allen Ginsberg.  He also painted sets for Peter Brook.  At the time, Hiro was perfecting a cartoony illustrative painting style that was not particularly Japanese.  The style did so well that his work was picked up on by an outfit in California that specializes in selling undemanding middlebrow art in bulk through venues in shopping malls.  Yamagata moved to Los Angeles to oversee the selling of his art, eventually opening a studio in Southern California.

In the recent past, Yamagata has explored a completely different aspect of art.  In 1997-98, he set out to create Element, a six-part series of environmental installations using theater lights, holographic effects and lasers.  Yamagata's desire was to overwhelm the senses by transforming the "white cube" of the gallery into a spatially infinite site where the micro merges with the macro and the limits of the real are expended.



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Hiro Yamagata is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
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