LondonYoshitomo Nara: Pinacoteca
Marking the first show to utilize the full expanse of our new space, Nara’s exhibition is presented across two levels with a major new installation, Pinacoteca 2021, at its center and a diverse range of recent paintings, sculpture, and works on cardboard throughout the three galleries.
Acrylic, crayon, and colored pencil on cardboard
46 1/4 x 35 3/8 in (117.5 cm × 89.8 cm)
© Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy Pace Gallery
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Yoshitomo Nara’s practice expertly balances the aesthetics of material with thoughtful reflections on the human experience – pain, war, spirit, politics, loneliness, music, and nature. Yoshitomo Nara: Pinacoteca coincides with the artist’s major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has been extended through January 2022, and the exhibition, i forgot their names and often can’t remember their faces but remember their voices well at Dallas Contemporary, Texas, March 20–August 22, 2021.
At the cornerstone of the exhibition Nara will present Pinacoteca 2021, a new multi-room installation that is reworked from an earlier project titled London Mayfair House which Nara built from abandoned materials found in a London suburb in 2006. One of only 15 in existence, seven of which are in public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in South Korea and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, this installation offers a rare insight into the artist’s radically multidisciplinary, experiential practice.
Borrowing its title from the Ancient Greco-Roman term for a public art salon, Pinacoteca 2021, is a specially crafted multi-room structure that imitates an exhibition space. Since 1985, Nara’s practice has explored the relationship between space and artwork. In 2001 he created an installation that resembled his student room, in which he exhibited unframed drawings by pinning them directly on the walls as if just completed, bringing the viewer into his inner world. Between 2003 and 2010, Nara made several spatial installations, often using found materials and personal affects alongside artworks to build and compose his structures.
‘In these fantastical, childlike rooms, Nara disrupt[s] the institutional spaces of museums and galleries by challenging the traditional classifications of what is and is not considered art. … With each exhibition, a viewer’s experience as voyeur, consumer, or passerby becomes a part of the dislocating effect of this concentrated layering of things.’ – Dr. Yeewan Koon
Visitors are invited to enter Pinacoteca 2021 and experience the work from within as a gallery of paintings. Nara has meticulously designed every facet of the space to evoke a strong sense of place and emotion and create connections between viewer and environment. On the internal walls, newly created paintings on wood and canvas as well as drawings on paper, used envelopes, and cardboard boxes, are hung by the artist himself. Adorning the outside walls – which have been directly painted onto – Nara hangs new paintings on wood which are stylistically simpler and more graphic than the works inside the installation. Sightlines from outside the structure have been carefully constructed through wooden slats and windows, deftly shifting the viewer’s position from participant to onlooker as they enter and exit the space.
For more than three decades, Nara’s idiosyncratic visual language has centred on innocent, genderless figures often rendered in bright colours with large heads and oval eyes. Drawing on a multitude of sources, including politics, punk rock and folk music, and the counterculture of the 1960s, Nara’s iconic figures function as a kind of self-portrait. Working alone, Nara channels his inner world through these unusual and brazen figures, whose expressions range from indignant and rebellious (Banging the Drum, 2020) to despondent (Okhotsk Girl Island, Cape Shiretoko, 2020) and inquisitive (… So, 2020). Particular attention is paid to the materiality of his work. Nara’s paintings on cardboard such as Girl with Drum Sticks (2019) and Remember BTB (2020), retain the exposed raw edges, leaving old barcodes and shipping text visible as part of the painting’s composition.
Peace Head (2020) and Ennui Head (2020), two new bronze sculptures covered in a white urethane coating, began as small palm sized works in clay before being enlarged and cast. Melding the physical, natural world with portraiture, these sculptures have a shared sensibility with his graphite drawings in their use of shadow and line.
Yoshitomo Nara is a pioneering figure in contemporary art whose signature style—which expresses children in a range of emotional complexities from resistance and rebellion to quietude and contemplation—celebrates the introspective freedom of the imagination and the individual.
Installation View, Yoshitomo Nara: Pinacoteca, November 26, 2021 – January 15, 2022, Pace Gallery, London © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy Pace Gallery. Photo: Damian Griffiths