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"Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens"
2004-01-24 until 2004-04-04
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
USA United States of America
Simultaneously cute and menacing, Yoshitomo Nara's images of young children and childhood pets offer an engaging and enigmatic Pop Art for the new millennium. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland and curated by Kristin Chambers, "Nothing Ever Happens" will include paintings, drawings, and sculptures created by Nara since 1997, many of which have never been shown publicly
The prolific and soft-spoken Nara is internationally recognized for his neo-pop style paintings and sculptures that feature big-eyed, alternately sad, mischievous, or even malevolent children. Born in 1959, Nara was raised during an era in Japan defined by economic re-development and working families. Like many Japanese children of this era, Nara was a "latch-key kid" who spent time out of school with only his imagination and pets for company. "My art represents my childhood experiences. It is not influenced by Japanese pop culture. I played with sheep, cats and dogs when I came home from school," says Nara.
Although some draw parallels to manga, the popular Japanese comic-strip form, with its child heroes and grim adult backdrops, Nara's children stand apart and alone with their direct gazes and acid grins that hint at much more adult states like fear, anxiety, and vengefulness, if not outright psychosis. In contrast, his tender and friendly dogs offer absolution and tranquility.
Nara invites us to return to a time when innocence and unruliness went hand in hand, when emotions were not expected to be filtered, when make-believe was not equated with lunacy and when the world was a fantastic and terrifying kingdom to be explored, not conquered. His works, which enjoy a cult status in his native Japan and are among the most recognizable of contemporary art images, appeal to a range of generations, nationalities, and temperaments. They are peppered now into the fabric of American pop culture. Adored by everyone from art critics to punk kids, Nara's figures haunt galleries and museums and adorn T-shirts, CD cases, ashtrays and clocks. Like his rebel heroes—Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, Mike Ness of Social Distortion and Green Day's Billie Joe; Nara has the ability to speak for a generation.
About the Artist
Yoshitomo Nara was born in 1959 in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. Nara, who currently lives and works in Tokyo, received his BFA (1985) and an MFA (1987) from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music. Between 1988 and 1993, Nara studied at the Kunstakademie Düssledorf, in Düsseldorf, Germany. Nara has exhibited widely in his native Japan and abroad. In the United States, he gained national attention as part of the popular group exhibitions, Super Flat (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2000); My reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation (Des Moines Art Center, 2001),and Almost Warm and Fuzzy: Childhood and Contemporary Art, (Des Moines Art Center, 2001). Nara has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984.
About the Catalog
Title: Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens
Includes essays by curator Kristin Chambers, Josh Kun, ICA's Ingrid Schaffner, and contributions by Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day); Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney); John Doe (X); author Dave Eggers; Lars Frederickson (Rancid); Deborah Harry (Blondie); Nara; Leonard Nimoy; and others. It is a soft-cover publication with 45 color plates, $29.95. Co-published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland and Perceval Press, Los
Round-Eyed Pilot, 1997,
Fiberglass, resin, wood, lacquer paint, and cotton,
18 x 17 x 11 inches,
Collection of Jacob and Ruth Bloom, Los Angeles