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  • Provenance

    Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
    Private Collection, Asia
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Tokyo, Taka Ishii Gallery, Holy Cow, 18 March - 15 April 2017

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tomoo Gokita’s signature black and white paintings typically draw upon an assortment of distinctive, kitschy pop-culture motifs ranging from cowboys and pin-up girls to Mexican wrestlers. Images appropriated from a variety of sources, including television, advertising and pornographic magazines, are deftly subverted by Gokita’s paintbrush with a series of smudges, distortions and gestures that render the faces and forms of his subjects unrecognisable, yet uncannily familiar. Considered an outsider by the Japanese art establishment, who has struggled to accept his often cryptic use of low-brow cultural imagery and background as a commercial illustrator, Gokita is described as “a polymath of drawing mediums and styles” by the renowned American critic Roberta Smith, whose “undeniably rich” paintings “pack an unsettling visual punch” (Roberta Smith, New York Times, 21 October 2016).

    Gokita’s breakthrough came in 2005 when a chance encounter with Gokita’s book Lingerie Wrestling (2000) in a museum shop led to a curator’s invitation to take part in the New York group show “Stranger Town”. Roberta Smith profiled the then-unknown Japanese artist in The New York Times: “One of the show’s high points is the stunning wall devoted to drawings in charcoal, ink or pencil by Tomoo Gokita […] Mr. Gokita’s vocabulary barrels across illustration, pornography, abstraction, children’s drawing, calligraphy and sign-painting, with a perfect control, velvety surfaces and tonal range that makes black-and-white feel like living colour” (Roberta Smith, New York Times, March 9 2005).

    Embrace was unveiled at the artist’s third solo show Holy Cow, held at Tokyo’s Taka Ishii Gallery in 2017. Exploiting the same rich visual language characteristic of Gokita’s work, Embrace seemingly brings out a more traditional, even sentimental, side of the artist. The embracing figures draw upon the enduring artistic motif of lovers enfolded in an eternal kiss. Whereas some of Gokita’s depictions of nude women are informed by soft-core erotica (in an interview with Art Asia Pacific he affectionately recalls his open-minded father, a designer working on advertising layouts for Playboy magazine, encouraging him to take a look at the Playboy magazines lying around the family home because “women are beautiful” (Elaine Ng, ‘One Thousand Shades of Gray’ in Art Asia Pacific, July/Aug 2015, online), here Gokita inserts himself firmly in the classical tradition with a nude subject conceivably borrowed from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s masterpiece The Turkish Bath, a refined neoclassical portrait of idealised, submissive beauty. But a playfully subversive streak underpins Embrace, with the lovers’ tangled, amorphous limbs and Mexican wrestling boots injecting a surreal and disarming mix of imagery into the work.

    Like in many of his other works, Gokita tantalises the viewer with an emotional tension somewhere between the pull of the familiar and the lure of the otherworldly. This is a theme recurrent not only in his choice of subject, but also medium. When Gokita turned to painting in 2005, he took the decision to favour a palette of black, grey and white, an aesthetic which had been carefully cultivated in his early works on paper and various commercial projects. This decision has over the years led to a mastery of texture, contrast and tone which is demonstrated at its best in Embrace. The immediacy of Gokita’s bold, evocative draftsmanship is tempered by voluptuous monochrome gradations that blur the line between the abstract and the figurative. This invisible brushwork suffuses the surface of the canvas with a startlingly luminous, velvety quality, lending a sublime and rarefied air to the work. Embrace is at once contemporary and timeless, a testament to an artist who continues to defy the conventions of artistic practice today.

    Gokita’s work continues to gather critical and artistic acclaim. Today Gokita is represented by several prominent international art galleries, including Blum & Poe (New York), Bill Brady Gallery (Miami), and Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo). His work has gained further institutional recognition over the past five years, with important solo museum shows at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art (THE GREAT CIRCUS) in 2014 and Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery (PEEKABOO) in 2018.

  • Artist Biography

    Tomoo Gokita

    Japanese • 1969

    Best known for grey-scale paintings that combine abstract and figurative elements, Tomoo Gokita is one of the most internationally prominent contemporary Japanese artists. His signature works feature archetypal figures or groups with their faces obscured, evoking haunting film stills or magazine spreads. Gokita enrolled in a local art school in 1988, but dropped out two years later to pursue a career in graphic design. Though he found success as a designer in the Japanese music industry, he felt creatively stifled and returned to painting full-time in the mid 1990s. 

    Similar to the way Gerhard Richter used photographs as a starting point for abstraction, Gokita combines visual references from found imagery with his stylized approach, creating portraits that are both rooted in memory and rich in painterly expression. His precise technique, often characterized by abstract flourishes and gestural swipes, can be traced to influence from New York’s Neo-Expressionists. In this playful manipulation of form, Gokita injects a sense of humor into his work, warping the archetypal into the absurd. Gokita has been the subject of multiple solo exhibitions at many prominent museums and galleries, including the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Sakura, Japan. The artist continues to live and work in Tokyo.

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Property from an Important Private Collection

Ο3

Embrace

2017
signed, titled and dated '"Embrace" [in Kanji] Tomoo Gokita 2017' on the reverse
acrylic gouache on canvas
194 x 194 cm. (76 3/8 x 76 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2017.

Estimate
HK$2,200,000 - 3,200,000 
€249,000-363,000
$282,000-410,000

Sold for HK$4,230,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019