The characters in Yoskay Yamamoto’s paintings are often portrayed submerged in water. With eyes half-closed and a serene expression on their faces, they seem at peace in the cool blue seas painted from the artist’s dreams. The concept of being submerged, for Yamamoto, represents his place between cultures as a Japanese artist living in America. His ocean possesses a strong physical and emotional power because of this. It’s waters contain new elements in his latest series of 12 paintings, debuting on Friday at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Contempo #ArtShop, curated by Giant Robot.
“The new series continues exploring the traditional americana signage motifs with modern twist as the main theme,” Yamamoto says. In our studio visit with the artist, he shared his passion for collecting vintage Americana objects. They provide both visual reference and a physical part of his installations, as in his 2014 solo exhibition, “House of Daydreamers.” The signage in these paintings embody the same spirit, such as Mobil’s high-flying pegasus and the Pop Art sculpture “Love” by American artist Robert Indiana. There’s even a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin. Yamamoto puts his own touches on these recognizable images with positive words and sentimental phrases. There’s something about a sense of time and history that feels almost magical, perhaps the closest we get to real magic. For a dreamer like Yamamoto, it’s also a gateway to a place that he can call his own.
Honolulu Museum of Art x Giant Robot’s Contempo #ArtShop opens on June 19th. All proceeds from Contempo #ArtShop support the Honolulu Museum of Art’s art education programs.