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Indepth Arts News:

"Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens"
2004-07-25 until 2004-10-31
San Jose Museum of Art
San Jose, CA, USA United States of America

The San Jose Museum of Art presents Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens through October. This traveling exhibition, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, will feature nearly 150 paintings, drawings and sculptures by Yoshitomo Nara, one of the most influential artists to emerge from Japan during the Pop art movements of the nineties. Admission to the San Jose Museum of Art and the exhibit is free. The prolific and soft-spoken Nara is internationally recognized for his neo-pop paintings and sculptures that feature big-eyed, alternately sad, mischievous or even malevolent children.

Nara invokes a voice that reaches and touches the masses. His works, which enjoy a cult status in Japan and are among the most recognizable of contemporary art images, appeal to a range of generations, nationalities, and temperaments and 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. Even the "cool" characters in some of today's most popular adolescent dramas (Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) have donned Nara T-shirts in past episodes ů his characteristic style is an insignia for the idiosyncratic individual who walks to the beat of their own drum.

Over the last decade, contemporary art from Japan has experienced an explosion of interest, both nationally and abroad. Perhaps the most prevalent trend in Japanese contemporary art is the influence of anime (animation) and manga (comic books), both of which feature highly stylized flat surfaces, technology and cyborg-driven narratives, and a preponderance of žcuteÓ characters. Like his contemporaries, Nara's work references childhood and is characterized by a flat, graphic style, but his artistic influences reveal a much broader range, including Renaissance painting, literature, illustration, graffiti and punk rock. While the influence of the fashionable and commercial style dubbed žsuper flatÓ by his contemporary, Takashi Murakami, is evident in Nara's paintings (and even sculptures), his work is as steeped in the traditional arts of painting and craftsmanship as it is in the world of popular culture and slick animation.

Disputing commentary that definitively points to anime and manga as a basis of his work, Nara explains, "People say you have a big influence from Japanese animation. No, I have a big influence from my childhood." Certainly American cartoons and Japanese comics and animated television shows such as Gigantor and Speed Racer were a part of his childhood, but equally influential were the landscape of the Japanese countryside, the isolation it imposed and the imagination it fostered. The paintings, drawings, and sculptures of young children and childhood pets in Nothing Ever Happens are, like real children, more emotionally complex than most adults acknowledge: they are at once charming and accessible, yet enigmatic and charged with undercurrents of malaise and discontent.

Following its premiere at MOCA Cleveland, this first major U.S. exhibition of Nara's work travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, The San Jose Museum of Art, the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis and The Contemporary Art Museum, Honolulu. Curated by former MOCA Cleveland curator, Kristin Chambers.

Yoshitomo Nara
Sheep from Your Dream, 1997
Fiberglass, resin, wood, lacquer paint, and cotton
18 x 20 x 11 inches
Lindemann Collection, Miami Beach

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