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by Pace Hong Kong
Location: Pace Hong Kong
Artist(s): Yoshitomo NARA
Date: 13 Mar - 25 Apr 2015

Pace Gallery Hong Kong is proud to present “stars”, Yoshitomo Nara’s second exhibition at Pace following his 2013 show in New York. The exhibition features recent works by Nara that combine his adolescent figures with star imagery and his work with burlap. Coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong, the exhibition will be on view from 13 March to 25 April 2015. 

Although stars have previously appeared in Nara’s work, this exhibition and recent body of work marks his first focused engagement of the theme. Nara paints his distinctive adolescent figures interacting with or surrounded by sequences of golden four-point stars. The youthful nature of Nara’s figures conjures childish notions of the star, varying from from earning a gold star as a reward for good work in school to the optimism of childish bromides such as “shoot for the stars” and “wish upon a star.” The latter phrase highlights the way stars can be read as harbingers, auguring the fulfillment of a wish or something more sinister. The many facial expressions of Nara’s figures suggest these meanings, be it the hopefulness of a child gazing up at the stars or a more adolescent cynicism, chary of any sense of hope. The exhibition also features a 2011 acrylic and pen work on a wood panel shaped like the four-point stars in the more recent paintings, establishing the motif in his oeuvre. 

Nara’s works on various surfaces such as cardboard and jute on wood create different effects for the paint. In several of his new works, he uses jute stitched together that is then stretched over a wood panel. The stitched jute creates a textural surface of irregular gridded lines that, coupled with the wood panel, lend the work an almost sculptural quality. Nara seeks to counterbalance these forces—the texture of the jute especially—by painting in flat blocks of color devoid of texture evocative of Japanese woodcuts. This technique of flattened paint distinguishes itself from the layering of diaphanous and airy pigments that characterize much of his work, yet finds precedent in his earlier billboard paintings. 

Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959, Aomori, Japan) was raised in Japan and completed his education in Germany. Nara integrates elements of his Western education with historical traditions in Japanese art, crafting a distinct aesthetic and process. Informed by elements of popular culture ranging from manga and anime to punk rock, Nara fuses Japanese visual traditions and Western modernism to create young characters that possess a startling emotional intensity. In a sense, Nara’s paintings and drawings can be seen as an ongoing dialogue with his own childhood, as he reveals an internal rebellious spirit through each work. Through these quiet hints, the artist allows the audience into his psyche and reveals an internal turmoil and the loneliness of modern society. 

The subject of more than one hundred solo exhibitions worldwide, Nara has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Diary Art Center, London (2014); Asia Society  Museum, New York (2010); 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2006); Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2004); and the Orange County Museum of Art (2003–04). The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, the Yokohama Museum of Art, Kanagawa organized traveling exhibitions of Nara’s work in 2004 and 2012, respectively.

Nara’s works have been widely collected by major museums and institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the British Museum, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the Neue Pinakothek, Germany; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Korea; the National Museum of Art, Osaka; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Málaga, Spain; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. 

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