Tomoo Gokita - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Phillips

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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 an assortment of distinctive, kitschy pop-culture motifs ranging from pin-up girls to cowboys and Mexican wrestlers. Images appropriated from a variety of sources, including television, advertising and pornography, are deconstructed with a series of deftly-applied smudges, distortions and gestures that render the faces and forms of Gokita’s subjects unrecognisable yet uncannily familiar.

    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” (‘Invading Genres Breach the Art World's Porous Borders’, The New York Times, 9 March 2005, online).

    Saucy Girl was unveiled at the artist’s solo show “DAMAGE CONTROL” in 2015, his second show at New York’s Bill Brady Gallery. The femme fatale is a familiar archetype of art and literature – seductive, mysterious, morally ambiguous – and perhaps the most famous actress of the Hollywood film noir age was Veronica Lake, whose cascading ‘peekaboo blonde’ hairstyle became a visual shorthand for the actress herself as well as the character of the femme fatale. This image carries the same enduring symbolic potency today, an ironic contrast to the actress herself, whose career ground to a halt just a few years after its peak. Fascinated particularly by images found in 1960s and 1970s erotica, and encouraged by his open-minded father, a designer working on advertising layouts for Playboy magazine, Gokita 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. (the artist, quoted in Steven Cox, ‘Tomoo Gokita Interview’, Hunted Projects, 2013, online)

    Saucy 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. Gokita is described as “a polymath of drawing mediums and styles” by Roberta Smith, whose “undeniably rich” paintings “pack an unsettling visual punch” (‘Tomoo Gokita: “Out of Sight”’, The New York Times, 20 October 2016, online).

    Gokita’s work echoes that of British Pop artist Richard Hamilton, whose My Marilyn (1966) featured a contact sheet of publicity stills of Hollywood pin-up Marilyn Monroe, which the star had herself marked up to indicate where her body needed to be retouched. Hamilton carried out a series of modifications, in one shot painting over her body altogether, her whited-out bikini-clad silhouette becoming a poignant visual symbol for the actress and the larger-than-life ‘blonde bombshell’ role she played throughout her life.

    In both these works we find the female protagonists mutely alluring, yet their faceless denial of the male gaze injects a surreal and alarming tension to the works. Gokita adroitly walks the line between indulging the comfort of the familiar and slyly inflicting the sharp shock of the unexpected. As a result, Saucy 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.

Property of an Important Private Collector


Saucy Girl

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

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$2,500,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019