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  • Provenance


    Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

  • Exhibited


    London, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, February 3 – March 11, 2006

  • Catalogue Essay


    Along with a whole generation of young Japanese artists,Yoshimoto Nara catapulted to stardom during the 1990s with an instantly recognizable, engaging Pop aesthetic. Influenced by the flat surfaces and stylized imagery drawn from bothWestern comic books and Japanese anime and manga traditions, Nara’s work features a confluence between high and popular art that has captured the admiration of the art world and a vast young audience alike.The highly iconic, graphic nature of the artist’s characters instantly lent themselves to be reproduced and disseminated into the mass market in the form of consumer items such as t-shirts, key chains, plush toys, clocks and mugs. Despite his formal training as an artist
    in both his homeland and Germany, as well as his exhibitions in established museums and galleries worldwide, Nara has excelled in a highly empathetic and accessible art with its tender and albeit at times, deeply anguished images.
    Central to Nara’s oeuvre is the cult of childhood, a tradition that found fertile ground in much of Japanese contemporary art and popular culture as a response to the country’s rigid social hierarchies and the constricting behavioral mores that dictate adult life. Nara’s preoccupation with the theme manifests itself in cartoonish portrayals of children and dogs, which extensively inhabit his sketches, paintings and sculptures. At first glance meek and inoffensive, Nara’s deceptively naïve children instantly gain our affection through their wide-eyed ‘cuteness’. In a more ambiguous note, they are usually portrayed with mischievous grins and stringent expressions or grasping knives and weapons, underscoring a darker subtext that pervades Nara’s work. Subverting whatever notion we may have of a purely idyllic, carefree childhood, the artist explores feelings of fear, anxiety and fantasy that resonate with our shared experiences of growing up.
    The present lot Crated Room #4, 2006 is in many ways illustrative of the artist’s concern with the wonders and fears of childhood. One of his important three-dimensional works, the installation is comprised of a large wooden crate reminiscent of artwork storage. Upon closer inspection, we find the container is punctured with tiny peepholes through which the viewer can glare at four of the artist’s notorious, larger-than-life puppies. Exploring the inhabitants of the crate is both a displacing and bewildering experience; the endearingly placid, benevolent appearance of the canine creatures evokes a sense of comfort and safety, heightened by the smoothly rounded surfaces of their white fiberglass bodies. On the other hand, the strangely surreal scale conjures up an almost uncanny sense of both menace and child-like awe, akin to the feeling when domestic pets are unsettlingly larger than the infants they play with. As is characteristic with much of Nara’s work, the present lot displays a contrasting juxtaposition of elements that imbues the work with great ambiguity. Nara makes us privy to a nostalgic escape from the constricting world of adulthood.The peepholes are windows into our long-lost memories, which are intricately intertwined with our own personal sentiments. Crated Room #4, 2006 is a realm marked by the joys, anxieties and pains of youth.
    “The children and animals that populate Nara's paintings, drawings, and sculptures are wise beyond their years. Direct gazes, knowing expressions, and mischievous grins confirm the fact that, although adorable, these children know what the world has in store for them.What Nara expresses in his work is the alienation and fierce independence natural to many children. He invites us to return to a time when innocence and unruliness went hand in hand; when emotions were not expected to be filtered; when makebelieve was not equated with lunacy; and when the world was a fantastic and terrifying kingdom to be explored—not conquered” (K. Chambers, Nothing Ever Happens, Cleveland, 2003, p. 26).

48

Crated Room #4

2006

Fiberglass, oil paint, metal, adhesive labels and wood with electrical lights.

78 5/8 x 78 3/4 x 46 in. (200 x 200 x 117 cm).

Dated “2006” on interior frame.

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York