Our Anniversary

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  • Provenance

    Honor Fraser, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Honor Fraser, Tomoo Gokita: Bésame Mucho, April 11 - May 16, 2015

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tomoo Gokita’s, Our Anniversary, 2015, is a captivating example of the artist’s ongoing fascination with issues of representation. The large double portrait rendered in black-and-white acrylic gouache features an anonymous couple whose faces have been swept away, replaced by swaths of paint that swirl around them like inky crowns or halos. The erasure renders the couple mute and disconnected, while the surreal imagery lends Our Anniversary the unsettling, dreamlike impression of strangers in a photograph disfigured by time and memory.

    Since his exhibition Tomoo Gokita: The Great Circus in 2014 at Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art in Japan, Gokita’s recent works feature increasingly monumental figures cropped to fill the canvas with a Pop-sensibility suggesting shades of Andy Warhol. Gokita’s background as a graphic designer and illustrator has a clear influence in the stylized precision of his paintings, which often build upon magazine stills of voluptuous women or film noir archetypes. The stylized zig-zag pattern across the male figure, a typical motif in Gokita’s work, intensifies the flatness of the surface and demonstrates the influence of the Superflat movement as spearheaded by Takashi Murakami.

    Recalling his childhood interest in Chinese calligraphy and manga, Gokita employs grayscale to heighten the drama of shadow and line, reveling in the visual play between smooth chiaroscuro and sharp linearity in the contrast between flesh and fabric. The sinuous shape of the woman’s body mimics the smooth surface of skin in satiny-gray, divided by the jet-blackness of her strapless dress, reminiscent of a sultry pulp fiction protagonist. As Roberta Smith noted: "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, March 9, 2005, online).

    While engaging with a rich tradition of post-modern portraiture, Gokita’s painterly investigation of the photographic portrait perhaps recalls most vividly Gerhard Richter’s photo-realist paintings. Gokita shares Richter’s profound sense of the ambiguous nature of memory, yet his jarringly cartoonish disfigurations introduce a more discomfiting humor. In Our Anniversary, eyes are replaced by spider-like floating orbs peering uneasily out at the viewer, an enigmatic suggestion of dissonance between the internal narrative and its artistic representation. Compelling the viewer to question the illusory nature of representation and connection, the obscured faces in Our Anniversary allude to an unreachable foreignness among familiar figures. As Jennifer Li remarked in a recent review of Gokita’s work, “His canvases require us to interrogate the images and stories we surround ourselves with…Without faces, we are forced to attempt to look beyond the surface” (Jennifer Li, “Tomoo Gokita”, ArtAsiaPacific, November/December 2018, Issue 111, online).

  • 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.

    View More Works

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Property from a Private Collection

Our Anniversary

signed, titled and dated "OUR ANNIVERSARY Tomoo Gokita '15" on the reverse
acrylic gouache on canvas
76 3/8 x 50 7/8 in. (194 x 129.2 cm.)
Executed in 2015.

Estimate
$250,000 - 350,000 

sold for $350,000

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250
rbowling@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue