Yoshitomo Nara is a Japanese artist best known for his widely recognizable portraits of children in a range of emotional states from resistance and rebellion to quietude and contemplation. While he is primarily a painter, Nara’s practice encompasses drawing, sculpture, photography and printmaking. But regardless of the choice of media, all his artworks reflect the artist’s encounters with his inner self. Originating from a struggle to express the self, Yoshitomo Nara‘s work celebrates the introspective freedom of the imagination and the individual. His paintings enact a fleeting presence between the figure and the ground—a result of layering and erasure of colors on the canvas. Since his childhood, Nara has been influenced by popular culture in both Eastern and Western society: memories of his childhood in post-war Japan, comic books, Disney animation, pop music and studying and living in Germany (1988–2000). Although his work often having been compared with Japanese manga due to his use of highly stylized, large-eyed figures, Yoshitomo Nara has maintained that he has not been inspired by it. Instead, his simultaneously sweet and sinister seeming portraits explore themes of isolation, rebellion, and spirituality: “Because of the imagery that I usually work with in my paintings, imagery that some people misinterpret as being manga—like, not a lot of people would see this spiritual side of my work. The fact is I have never once said that I’ve been influenced by Japanese manga. For a very long time I have created my art from a spiritual point of view. It is filled with religious and philosophical considerations.” Yoshitomo Nara has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Yokohama Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among many other institutions. Japanese, born 1959 in Hirosaki, Japan.
Yoshitomo Nara and Hiroshi Sugito, Untitled (Omaha)