Tokyo Shyness Girl
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  • Provenance

    Bill Brady Gallery, Miami
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Miami, Bill Brady Gallery, Tomoo Gokita: DAMAGE CONTROL, 30 November 2015 - 9 January 2016

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tomoo Gokita’s signature monochrome paintings typically draw upon a favoured assortment of kitschy pop-culture motifs, ranging from Hollywood pin-ups, to Mexican wrestlers. Derived from a variety of sources, including television, advertising and erotica - these images are deconstructed with nuanced smudges, gestures and distortions rendering the faces and forms of Gokita’s subjects barely recognisable yet uncannily compelling.


    The present work exhibited during Miami, Bill Brady Gallery, Tomoo Gokita: Damage Control, 30 November 2015 - 9 January 2016
    Once considered an outsider by the Japanese art establishment who struggled to accept his cryptic use of low-brow cultural imagery and background as a commercial illustrator, Gokita’s breakthrough came in 2005 when a curator’s chance encounter with Gokita’s book Lingerie Wrestling (2000) in a museum shop led to his inclusion in the New York group show "Stranger Town". The renowned American critic Roberta Smith profiled the then-unknown Japanese artist: “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 color” (Roberta Smith, ‘Invading Genres Breach the Art World's Porous Borders’, The New York Times, 9 March 2005, online).

    The present lot was unveiled at the artist’s solo show “DAMAGE CONTROL” in 2015, his second show at Miami’s Bill Brady Gallery. Part of a series of works referencing the Golden Age of Hollywood, Tokyo Shyness Girl ostensibly pays homage to the legendary screen siren Sophia Loren, one of the era’s last surviving stars, who is depicted in her role as a prostitute undressing in the film 'Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow'. Gokita was particularly fascinated by images found in 1960s and 1970s erotica, and in one interview he affectionately recalled 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’, Art Asia Pacific, July/Aug 2015, online). Gokita further explained:

    I don’t know why, but I have a tendency to be strongly attracted by photographs and images of women appearing in those books and magazines that were printed in the days when the printing techniques were still poor. Those images stimulate my motivation for creation. (Tomoo Gokita, quoted in Steven Cox, ‘Tomoo Gokita Interview’, Hunted Projects, 2013, online)


    The Italian actress, Sophia Loren
    (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
    Mutely alluring, Gokita’s painterly defacements reduce the iconic actress to a mere cipher: a metaphor of potent yet ambiguous, unknowable female sexuality recognisable only by her distinctive hairstyle and buxom silhouette. Tokyo Shyness Girl is displayed between similarly surreal pseudo-portraits of fellow Golden Age icons Jayne Mansfield and Veronica Lake. Echoes of Gokita’s work can be found in Andy Warhol’s famous Pop Art portraits of Hollywood pin-up Marilyn Monroe. Just a matter of weeks after the actress’s death in 1962 aged 36 from an overdose of sleeping pills, Warhol began screenprinting her image over and over again. All taken from the same publicity photograph from the 1953 film Niagara, Warhol’s works became poignant visual symbols of the commodifying effects of the cult of celebrity:

    “The more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel." (Andy Warhol, quoted in Colin MacCabe et al, eds., Who Is Andy Warhol?, Pittsburgh, 1997).

    Tokyo Shyness Girl showcases a mastery of texture, contrast and tone honed in Gokita’s early works on paper and various commercial projects. The immediacy of Gokita’s bold, evocative draftsmanship is tempered by voluptuous monochrome gradations that suffuse the surface of the canvas with a startlingly luminous, velvety quality. Dealing ‘an unsettling visual punch’ (Roberta Smith, ‘Tomoo Gokita: “Out of Sight”’, The New York Times, 20 October 2016, online), Gokita adroitly walks the line between indulging the comfort of the familiar and slyly inflicting the sharp shock of the unexpected. As a result, Tokyo Shyness Girl is at once contemporary, nostalgic 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) 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 Bio

    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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Tokyo Shyness Girl

2015
signed, titled and dated '"Tokyo Shyness Girl" Tomoo Gokita 2015' on the reverse
acrylic and gouache on canvas
162.6 x 129.5 cm. (64 x 51 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Estimate
HK$1,600,000 - 2,600,000 
€184,000-299,000
$205,000-333,000

sold for HK$2,500,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+852 2318 2026

CharlotteRaybaud@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 8 July 2020