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Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 03:13 am
The Kotatsu School

Artist name: Akira Yamaguchi

Date of birth: 1969

From: Gunma prefecture

Education: Graduated from painting course, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, 1994. Master's degree from same school, 1996.

Best friend: Makoto Aida, the suave pervert who made a name for himself with "harakiri schoolgirls" and other works of Kawaii Noir, was a friend at art school, and the pair, both now famous, continue to exhibit together.

Style: Phrases like neo-trad, retro pomo and anachronistic kulturkritik spring to mind, but the Japanese art press has used the term "Kotatsu School", named after an exhibition Yamaguchi held in the Mizuma Gallery in Nakameguro in 1997, jointly with Makoto Aida. (They've held shows at Mizuma every year since then.) The Kotatsu School is not to be confused with the "Kotatsutop" laptop / Japtop music of Yuko Nexus6! (Or is it? Trad Japanese themes meet modern technology, hmmm...)

Status: Yamaguchi pulled off a double whammy in 2005: his art won him cover features in both major Japanese art magazines, ArtIt and BT (Bijutsu Techo).

Trivia: A friend of Sofia Coppola, Yamaguchi played the Bellboy in "Lost in Translation".



Gallery blurb: [All spelling mistakes courtesy Mizuma Gallery] "Yamaguchi's works may look like a Japanese traditional ,"Yamato-e", style painting. But coming to the details, you will find a businesman in dark suits, modern tall buildings, motorbikes, and even the rural scenery in Europe at the same time, among past day's people or a crowd of samurai... His unique painting style is brought by his doubt about Japanese modern history. Japanese has westernizeated so quickly and brindly especially in 20 century. It is applied to fine art. Constrution of contemporary art does not come from Japanese. Objects, installation, concept etc. everything comes from Western thinking. He makes his work as if he were a fictitious painter in a ficititious Japanese history of art which Japanese had not been westernized quickly."

Artist statement: [More charming misspellings of 'fictitious'] "If Japanese hadn't Westernized so quickly, Japanese contemporary artists would create such works. Because of this image, I may keep painting a trying to pretend a fictious artist in a fictious Japanese art history."

Press clipping: "As a child, Akira Yamaguchi spent countless hours hunched over his desk, doodling the many space-age rocket ships and humanoids he encountered in his bedroom anime collection. The young artist, however, also remembers feeling a sense of guilt whenever he attempted to mimic more traditional Japanese art forms by past masters like Hokusai. "It's probably a uniquely Japanese way of thinking, but I felt it was blasphemy," says Yamaguchi, 35. "For me, classical art was something for the elite and not to be meddled with by commoners like me." This underdog mentality towards the established art of his homeland, however, would in fact be the catalyst for Yamaguchi's own career. He developed a radical approach to Japanese art that combined Western oil painting techniques with a traditional compositional style, originating in Kyoto, known as Yamato-e (literally, Japanese images). During his college years, he began to obsessively copy and then re-create old-school Japanese landscapes and portraits, which he then infused with a renegade parade of anachronistic robot-androids, motorbikes and steel buildings." Ken Kawashima, Japan Times

Selected Images: View of a mock-up Japanese shitamachi district, with Japanese tourists mingling with costumed Japanese actors. (Shades of The Japanese are almost Japanese.) View of a sento. But the internet is completely useless for viewing Yamaguchi's work. Even his books come with a plastic magnifying glass attached. You have to see this stuff big, on a gallery wall.

Interview: In Japanese.

22CommentReply


(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)

Yes, it sounds like "Westernauseated"! Stick that in your Occidentalism pipe and smoke it, Buruma!


ReplyThread Parent

armoredbaby
armoredbaby
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
I certainly would...

not mind combing over one of these giants, "fictious" ( fik - shee - us ) or not. They look absolutely beautiful.

I went to the Rubin Museum in NY for Tibetan/Himalayan art ( Bon and Buddhist ) and their is a kind of glee when one has to lean in with the magnifying glass and look at minute detail. In the case of the mandalas there, I could not help but imagine the size of the brush used.

I assume you have been up close with his works -- are things that small and crazily detailed?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 11:57 pm (UTC)
Re: I certainly would...

Yes. You can pore over them for a long time, and it's a bit like reading a non-sequential book. The little anachronisms are lots of fun.


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)

Wow, details, colours and alot of things happening at the same time! I love that combination. Does he make some sort of "telling art" which can tell a sort of story? Like Jockum Nordströms works?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)

Yes, for instance, his series about the Japan-Russian war. I should have linked Monty DiPietro's article, it's worth a read.


ReplyThread Parent
jozefpronek
jozefpronek
jozefpronek
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 08:38 pm (UTC)

Is there an exhibit of these works somewhere around the Kansai area?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 11:59 pm (UTC)

Not at the moment, no.


ReplyThread Parent
peripherus_max
peripherus_max
peripherus_max
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC)

Mixed feelings about this guy. A lot of the "ooh ahh!" factor going on in his work - an incredible amount of time and devotion to detail. But, on a conceptual level, I find his ideas a bit flat - simple superimposition a quirky contemporary iconography onto a traditional "Yamato-e" style. The bit about Sofia Coppola's friendship being "trivia," I find a bit ironic. Pardon the pomo.


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)

i sort of agree. but then that's how i feel about much of makoto aida's painting (ww2 series etc) which is very similar almost every way. yet aida can pull out some conceptually mind-blowing stuff like this or what could be described as a relief map, that can be used as a carpet, of the imperial palace he showed recently at a gallery in ginza.[available for sale at a rather affordable price too]. does Yamaguchi have a conceptual stew brewing up we don't know of yet??


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 05:47 pm (UTC)

does Yamaguchi have a conceptual stew brewing up we don't know of yet??

Lay off him, can't you see the poor guy has Asperger's Syndrome?


ReplyThread Parent
frenziedcurtain
frenziedcurtain
frenziedcurtain
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)

I'm always in favour of art reproduction which comes with its own magnifying glass.

There's a bit of 'Where's Wally?' going on here, which is kind of fun. I wonder if he's ever tempted to collage in a couple of elements from that?


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heliophyte
heliophyte
E
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 12:35 am (UTC)

I was about to say, hey, it's Where's Waldo. Is he called Wally outside of North America?


ReplyThread Parent
frenziedcurtain
frenziedcurtain
frenziedcurtain
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 10:28 am (UTC)

In the UK, at any rate.

What's that kangaroo saying?


ReplyThread Parent
heliophyte
heliophyte
E
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC)

He's saying, "Shalom!"


ReplyThread Parent
dixie_flatline
dixie_flatline
Konstantin Anikin
Thu, Jan. 12th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)

heh, coincidence. :))
my friend from tokyo send me Akira Yamaguchi postcard. New Year gift. this yellow one, with SimCity like Tokyo(?)

thank for info!


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henryperri
henryperri
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 12:24 am (UTC)

I want a SIMS game modelled after akira departmento.


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nomorepolitics
nomorepolitics
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)

These are really nice. They remind me of the work I've been doing for the past four years, but different. He's also got the same colors. I wish I could see a bigger image.

Can you tell me what media he uses?


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 09:26 am (UTC)
Nostalgic 21st century

Reminds me a little of the work of Keisuke Kishi. I think that Kishi's imagination is the reverse though - whilst having a similar effect - based on the hypothesis of a Japan that Westenised earlier, or, at least, had a form of contemporary technology earlier.


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)

Beautiful work. Thank you for introducing me to it.


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ebekenezer
ebekenezer
ebekenezer
Fri, Jan. 13th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
...How it Corrodes

This is amazing. Yamaguchi captures the corrosion of western influence in a very unique way. I was elated to see this. Thank you.


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kotatsulife
kotatsulife
Sun, Mar. 29th, 2015 05:57 pm (UTC)
kotatsu school?

one does one do exactly a kotatsu school? I know how to kotatsu pretty hard.


ReplyThread