Pace/MacGill Gallery presents yoshitomo nara: all things must pass, but nothing is lost / precious days around me, sometimes farther along, sometimes under my feet, a solo exhibition of photographs by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara.
Showcasing a selection of color and black-and-white prints from 1983 to present day, the exhibition marks the New York debut of Nara’s work in photography.
Nara is internationally renowned for his distinctive paintings, sculptures, and drawings of single figures, but his near lifelong pursuit of photographic expression remains relatively unexplored. His interest in the medium originated at age 13 – when his parents gave him his first camera – and began informing his artistic practice a decade later while traveling as a student. Nara’s 1983 photographs taken in Beijing and Taiyuan in Northern Shanxi, China are early visual commentaries on post-Mao social culture. Shot on color film but printed in black-and-white, these deftly captured observations document a society on the cusp of radical transformation through everyday scenes and candid portraits of ordinary citizens – subjects that Nara continues to pursue to this day.
Thirty-one years later, Nara’s 2014 pilgrimage to Sakhalin, a remote island north of Japan where his farmer grandfather worked as a coal miner in the agricultural offseason, produced a deeply personal photographic appreciation of his heritage and homeland.
Presented as single images, at times in found-object frames, diptychs, multi-part pieces, and collages, Nara’s photographs offer a window into his visual world. These vivid records of memories, moments, feelings, and experiences collectively comprise a distinctly personal narrative that reveals his aesthetic sensibility and thinking. Nara’s unique vision of the everyday is perhaps best manifest in works from the SNS series, where he creates tabletop installations from arrangements of over 50 prints. The subjects in which Nara repeatedly finds meaning – the innocent faces of children, family members composed together, resting animals, tranquil landscapes, deteriorating architecture, and symbols of peace – and his careful manner of juxtaposing and sequencing them, disclose a deep-seated reverence for his native environment, its people, and its culture. Moreover, Nara’s interior studio scenes shed light on his own creative process and the literary, musical, and artistic influences that markedly inform his work. In inviting viewers to contemplate life from his own perspective, Nara’s photographs ultimately promote an expanded awareness and appreciation of humanity’s fascinating differences and inspiring similarities.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)