Yoshitomo Nara at Pace/MacGill Gallery

Art Scene

Yoshitomo Nara at Pace/MacGill Gallery

Yoshitomo Nara is known for his paintings, sculptures and drawings of individual subjects, most notably deceptively simple children and animals. Capitalizing on a universal characterization of children as sweet, cute and innocent, his work hints at a pulsing world of emotional variety and a child’s awareness of evil, beneath the surface. Using pastel colors and cartoonish qualities, his portraits are often seen in relation to the world of Japanese subcultures and western pop culture, with a punk rock ethos.

SAKHALIN, 2014. © Yoshitomo Nara; courtesy Pace and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

In the exhibition titled, Yoshitomo Nara: all things must pass, but nothing is lost / precious days around me, sometimes farther along, sometimes under my feet, the photographic work of Nara is on view for the first time in New York at Pace/MacGill Gallery. In the case of Nara’s photographs, the sweetness of the human spirit outweighs the seething undertones of much of his other work. The warmness of his painting color palette is evident in the exhibition’s installation. A subtly vibrant, pastel aqua blue wall acts as a backdrop to a salon style installation of Nara’s images as one enters the gallery. Images of ordinary people and everyday scenes fill a variety of frame styles at numerous sizes resembling a wall in someone’s home.

SAKHALIN, 2014. © Yoshitomo Nara; courtesy Pace and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

The use of wood throughout the exhibition in framing also lends itself to a rustic feel, echoing the inclusion of images that speak to rural life and an earthy humanity. A series of images shot in 2014 in Sakhalin, a remote island north of Japan where Nara’s grandfather was a farmer, as well as works shot in Taiwan that honor its culture and landscape, or photos of little children playing, come to mind. Although much of the work on view could at first glance be characterized as a snapshot, a steady emotional consistency exists throughout the exhibition, revealing the mind of a thoughtful artist.

CHINA, 1983. © Yoshitomo Nara; courtesy Pace and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

Simple moments of inspiration, shared community, acts of play and random moments within a day are quietly rich and full of life. A reverence for the everyday, ordinary people, and the pleasantness of simple pleasures gently echoes throughout the photographs on view. Living in harmony with one’s environment, in a contemporary context, is particularly poignant in relation to the works presentation in an urban metropolis such as New York City.

SAKHALIN, 2014. © Yoshitomo Nara; courtesy Pace and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.

The photographs on view include work from 1983 to the present. Nara’s images from the early ‘80s were taken in Beijing and Taiyuan in Northern Shanxi, China—shot on color film but printed in black-and-white. They offer Nara’s view of a post-Mao culture in China, and gracefully suggest a continuity in his work, an elegant respect for a subject’s interiority and life.

Yoshitomo Nara: all things must pass, but nothing is lost / precious days around me, sometimes farther along, sometimes under my feet, is on view through January 12, 2019 at Pace/MacGill Gallery.