Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami, image via @takashipom on Instagram
“All the world is yours…” reads one of the 200 drawings in Yoshitomo Nara’s latest exhibition at LA’s Blum & Poe Gallery, which opened last Saturday. Nara’s solo exhibition is his seventh with the gallery, featuring a vast selection of his signature child characters in a new world of experimental materials. At the heart of the exhibition is an untapped medium for the artist: larger than life bronze sculptures. Cast from hand-sculpted clay models, the busts possess an unearthly quality in their rough interpretation of Nara’s youthful heroes.
Among his new series of paintings are large-scale billboard portraits on repurposed wood, collages made of panel and layers upon layers of sketches that have been collected for over 30 years. Shown together, Nara’s sketches trace the maturation of his once-defiant characters. His subjects are now painted with a warm array of colors with sparkles in their eyes that test the viewer’s empathy. The viewer is not only entranced but challenged by the spiraling eyes of his Midnight Vampire. Eyes are a continued focus in his garden sculpture, The Fountain of Life, where stacked heads which appear to cry real tears.
Nara’s focus on the eyes echoes Japanese Manga’s fixation on large, gleaming pupils, combined with the social challenge of a blank stare. While some subjects appear emotionally detached, others literally face off against each other in more playful images, such as two girls playing guitar in Hey Ho Let’s Go! In a world where rebellion, cruelty, and innocence are inextricably mixed, Nara shows an honest portrait of humanity that continues to develop and test visual art traditions. Yoshitomo Nara exhibits at Blum & Poe March 1 through April 12, 2014.