Japanese-born artist Yoshitomo Nara was born in 1959, and he currently lives and maintains a studio in Tokyo. Even though Yoshitomo Nara is best known as a Japanese artist, his influence extends far beyond his home country.
Indeed, the works of Yoshitomo Nara can be seen throughout the world, from the finest museums in the country to the best art galleries around the globe. During his long life and career, Yoshitomo Nara has been the subject of almost 40 solo exhibitions, showcasing his work and the progression of his art.
While his work encompasses a number of different areas, Yoshitomo Nara is most closely associated with the Pop Art movement. Some of the best examples of his Pop Art creations can be found at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles.
A classically trained and highly talented artist, Yoshitomo Nara holds a BFA and an MFA from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music. Yoshitomo Nara also pursed his artistic education at the famous Kunstakademie Dusseldorft in Germany, and those early experiences helped create the well-rounded and culturally diverse artist his fans have come to know and love.
Yoshitomo Nara first gained prominence in the art world as part of the Pop Art movement in Japan. Pop Art was in its ascendancy in 1980s Japan, and Yoshitomo Nara was one of the most prominent artists of that movement. While his works of the period are deceptively simple, they are filled with a richness that only become evident with careful viewing.
By creating works of seemingly innocuous subject matter, Yoshitomo Nara invites closer inspection, and that closer inspection reveals a darkness that may not have been evident at first. For instance, some of his works appear to be simple, or even cartoonish, drawings of children and animals. When the viewer looks more closely, however, they often see that those innocent children are in fact holding guns, knives and other weapons.
This strange combination of innocence and menace is at the heart of Yoshitomo Nara's work, and it is one of the hallmarks of his Pop Art influence. Instead of merely imitating what the Pop Art masters of the American scene had wrought, Yoshitomo Nara added a new depth, creating a unique world that is truly his own.
Yoshitomo Nara and his work were critical sensations from the start. His strangely intriguing images of childhood innocence and adult danger were an immediate hit, and not only with art collectors. In fact, one of his most famous works was featured by experimental band Fantomas. That album was called Suspended Animation, and it helped bring the work of Yoshitomo Nara to a completely different audience.
Throughout his life and career, Yoshitomo Nara has created hundreds of different pieces, from paintings and drawings to unique works of sculpture. Many of these works have been collected into an extensive catalog, a fitting retrospective on one of the best known Japanese-born artists of a generation.
The Asia Society also honored Yoshitomo Nara in 2010, giving the Japanese-born artist a major exhibition and a chance to showcase his finest works. This exhibition took place in New York, but other retrospectives have taken place in his native Japan. Some of these touring exhibitions have been enormous successes, bringing Yoshitomo Nara and his works to all corners of the globe.
Yoshitomo Nara has cited a number of important influences in his work, but the worlds of manga and anime are among the most intriguing. As a Japanese-born youngster in the 1960s, Yoshitomo Nara was greatly influenced by both manga and anime, and the influences of these unique art forms can be seen throughout his later works.
The influence of manga and anime are especially apparent in the combination of childlike innocence and unknown menace. From innocent looking children holding knives and saws to cartoonish drawings that reveal a darker side, the works of Yoshitomo Nara drip with a resonance all their own, harnessing the worlds of Japanese animation and bringing a new life to it.
From the influence of Japanese animation to the world of punk rock and experimental music, Yoshitomo Nara has created a unique form of art all his own. His work remains highly collectible, and he is one of the most sought after artists of his generation.
In the Pinky Lake, 2004
acrylic on canvas over fiber-reinforced plastic
71 by 71 inches
pastel, acrylic and colour pencil on paper
61 5/8 x 53 3/4 inches