Nara Yoshitomo Exhibit: “a bit like you and me…”

I have a confession to make. I’m new to Japan’s pop-art scene. I haven’t fully grasped Takashi Murakami’s the theoretical frame work of his Postmodern Superflat movement, but I’m an avid fan of his work and everything and everyone associated with it.

Yoshitomo Nara sometimes comes up on the topic of Murakami and Superflat. The last time Nara’s solo exhibit occupied the Yokohama Museum of Art’s halls in 2001, it coincidentally coincided with Murakami’s at the Museum of Contemporary of Art, Tokyo. Eleven years later, Nara has returned with his next exhibit “a bit like you and me…”

It was possibility the first time that I not only had to wait in line for admittance for an art exhibit, but also the one time where I had to follow a queue of people to move from piece to piece.

Amidst all this, I immediately understood the hype. There’s something oddly bewitching about his characters and painting. Their eyes are deformed, reminiscent of the anime and manga characters’ that he consumed early on in the 1960s. Cute though his characters may be, their expressions are anything but that. Each of his pieces portrays nearly identical girls with leers that have grown to become his signature aesthetic.

A gallery of bronze cast sculptures occupy one floor and as Edan Corkill of the Japan Times reports, March 11 became the key piece to its conception. The sculptures aren’t socially or politically active so much as they’re emotionally wrought. What’s more, there feels like a touch of growing maturity to his newer paintings.

Take Ms. Spring for example. I’m not sure to what degree Nara is influenced by contemporary anime, but the multi-colored scheme reminds me of some of the digital effects rendered by photoshopped characters. The main difference is that while artists use Adobe Elements to achieve this effect, Nara took acrylic to canvas. Look deeper into the eyes of “Ms. Spring” and there’s a vividness in its color that defies her otherwise sullen mood. There’s certainly sorrow there, but the complex coloring of it all is almost elevating. What this means about the direction of Japan’s nascent Post-3.11 art movement is anyone’s best bet, but this exhibit may be one of the best places to start.

Yoshitomo Nara’s exhibit, “a bit like you and me…” continues until Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 at the Yokohama Museum of Art. For further information, visit