As a centerpiece of his solo exhibition “The Little Little House in the Blue Woods” (September 22, 2012 – January 14, 2013) held at Towada Art Center, Nara executed this work on a wall surface he likened to a ten-meter-high canvas. While the Japanese title can be read as “yoroshiku,” a common greeting in Japan, it is written here with four Chinese characters that mean “night (Yo),” “exposed (Ro),” “death (Shi),” and “suffering (Ku),” in a play on words from the lexicon of socially rebellious youth. The girl’s clothing is ripped in places as if she has worn it out or been in a fight, or perhaps added the holes on purpose to look cool. Striking a pose, legs crossed, she is gazing at something slightly off to the side. A smile is detectable on her lips, but she also seems to be holding back anger or holding in sadness. The girl’s expression is depicted in simple lines, but changes in complexity according to the mood of the viewer.
Nara draws young girls and animals whose expressions contain a purity and strength that seem to defy society’s power to tame them. The stare emanating from the girl’s particularly large eyes appears to see through to society’s essence. Processing the work begins with absorbing the strength of her stare and trying to discern what her cuteness conceals. The viewer can project onto her their own inner feelings, or recognize something in her appearance familiar from family or close friends: the reason Nara’s work continues to charm people around the world.
Photo: Oyamada Kuniya
Born 1959 in Hirosaki, Japan. Nara completed his MFA at Aichi University of the Arts in 1987, and postgraduate studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1993, working out of a studio in Köln until his return to Japan in 2000. Recent solo exhibitions include “a bit like you and me” at the Yokohama Museum of Art, Aomori Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto (Japan, 2012-13), “Life is Only One” at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center (China, 2015), and “Yoshitomo Nara for better or worse” at Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (Aichi, 2017). His large-scale exhibition opening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (US) in April 2020 will travel thereafter to the Yuz Museum (Shanghai, China), Museo Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain), and Kunsthal Rotterdam (The Netherlands).