Tomoo Gokita - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | Phillips

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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).

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.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $350,000

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

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