Fondation Cartier, Paris


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press release

From March 4 to May 21, 2006 the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain will be presenting, for the first time in Europe, a wide selection of paintings and posters by Japanese artist Tadanori Yokoo. A veritable graphic design icon in the 60’s and 70’s, this artist gained international renown early on through his posters and illustrations. In his works, he created a true Pop art imagery, a mélange of geishas, blond pin-ups, baroque cherubs that intermingle against a background of Hokusai-like waves or a rising sun, and better than anyone else, he reveals Japanese post-war culture. He later turned to painting as his preferred means of expression, extending and exploring the main themes found in his graphic works: life, death, sex.

Tadanori Yokoo (born in 1936 in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan) began his career in the world of advertising and illustration. He was soon remarked by figures like the writer Yukio Mishima and the designer Issey Miyake, and went on to collaborate closely with them for many years. Playing with styles from different periods, Tadanori Yokoo developed an idiosyncratic language, appropriating elements from the graphic arts tradition in Japanese culture as well as from Western references (Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles). He copied, duplicated and multiplied his motifs, leading, through a process of combination and accumulation, to a great diversity of imagery. He thus forged a personal style based on repetition and borrowing, citing both Eastern and Western art as well as his own compositions.

In the early 80’s, painting became the medium through which he continued to powerfully and radically express this extraordinary fictional world. Via subjects rooted in a personal and collective memory, his paintings explore themes such as death, life, society, sex, and religion, through a profusion of motifs. Against a starry night, volcanoes, pyramids and urban landscapes are deconstructed, isolated, half-finished, or accompanied by their reflection, and admixed with a disorderly gush of objects and subjects as astonishing as a skull, a flying saucer, a lion or a steam locomotive. Each element’s place in the composition is the result of the mental associations it entertains with the others, all of which is entirely dictated by the artist’s subjectivity. For Tadanori Yokoo, memory is a collage of visual experiences, the result of moments lived, and not a blank terrain. Voluntarily crossing the boundary between art and life, he may be compared to the Dadaists and the Surrealists, or to his American peers, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

A large selection from the series of red paintings which he began in the 90’s will be on view during the exhibition at the Fondation Cartier. The stylistic unity provided by this dominant color is diversified by a multiplicity of themes such as death, spirituality, childhood or the city. These themes will be explored and linked to a range of other works such as the more ironic Pink Girls series (dating from the 60’s) and the Y Junctions series (from 2000-2002), as well as to a selection of vintage posters, illustrations and books attesting to the diversity of his creative activity.

The exhibition Tadanori Yokoo is organized with support from the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, under the aegis of the Fondation de France, and with the sponsorship of Cartier.


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Tadanori Yokoo