Japanese Pop artist Keiichi Tanaami has rarely seen artwork now on view at New York contemporary art gallery Sikkema Jenkins & Co. When we covered his 2013 solo exhibition at Mizuma Gallery, his art went through a turning point. His fascination with life after a near-death experience inspired him to look to the future, rather than the past. The artwork in this show is not new- but Tanaami’s mixture of motifs from the past inspires modern questions that keeps his art relevant. He created it in the 1970s, inspired by a New York visit that included first-time encounters with Andy Warhol, Coca-Cola, American cartoons and comic book characters. They represent an era of excess that led him to work at Japanese Playboy and direct videos for John Lennon (6 of which are also on view). The overall aesthetic is psychedelic, a movement that occurred simultaneously in 1960s-70s America and Japan. Clippings of civil rights marches with the stars and stripes mirror the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. The objectification of women in vintage lingerie ads is less shocking by comparison to today’s sexualized female super heroes. It begs to consider if we’ve changed all that much, and will Pop art still address these issues in 50 years from now.
Keiichi Tanaami is now on view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co Gallery through October 4th, 2014.