Lydia Okumura, ‘Untitled I’, (1981), Acrylic paint, painted aluminum and cotton string, 78 x 90 x 48 inches.
Using acrylic paint, cotton string, painted aluminium sheets, charcoal and pencil, Lydia Okumura combines drawn lines and painted shapes to intersect with physical environments. Influenced by Brazilian artists, like Cildo Meireles and Artur Barrio, her abstract installations are low-key optical illusions that create the impression of volume and tension.
Lydia Okumura was born in São Paulo (1948). The artist lives and works in New York.
Haruki Kojin, Contact Lens (2011), at MOT (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo).
Producing spectacular optics from suspended lenses or installing floral patterns that recall mirrored Rorschach tests, Haruka Kojin’s works include two commissions on the island of Inujima.
Haruka Kojin was born in Hiroshima (1983).
Tomoko Yoneda, from Scene 02, Path, (2003.)
Inviting viewers to reflect on the consequences of major political events, Tomoko Yoneda photographs the sites where conflicts once happened in the present-day. The path pictured above leads to the cliff where Japanese committed suicide after the American Landing of WWI in Saipan, Japan.
Tomoko Yoneda was born in Akashi, Hyōgo (1965). The artist lives and works in London.
Yoko Ono, ‘Play It by Trust’ (Roskilde Version) (2002). Wood chairs, table, and chess pieces. Edition 3 of 6.
Performing ‘Cut Piece’ (1964), releasing the publication ‘Grapefruit’ (1964), belonging to the group Fluxus, making artworks from poetic instructions, and creating a chess set in one colour – ‘Play it by Trust’ (1966) – are only a handful of reasons to celebrate the artist and activist Yoko Ono, should any introduction really be necessary.
Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo (1933).
Yuko Mohri, ‘Moré Moré (Leaky): The Falling Water Given #1-3’ (2015). Photo: Keizo Kioku
In 2015, Yuko Mohri won the Nissan Art Award with the artwork pictured above. Assembled from readymade objects this installation makes use of two clear references. The first is local; the makeshift plumbing found at metro stations in Tokyo. The second is art historical; Marcel Duchamp’s ‘The Bride Stripped Bare By Bachelors, Even’ (‘The Large Glass’) (1915-23). Sometimes static, sometimes kinetic, Mohri’s brand of sculpture breathes new life into the mass-produced objects that surround us.
Yuko Mohri was born in Kanagawa (1980). The artist lives and works in Tokyo.
To see more about the 2015 Nissan Art Award: Seven Finalists
Chiharu Shiota, ‘The Key in the Hand’ (2015) Venice Biennale, Japan Pavilion. Photo: Sunhi Mang
Chiharu Shiota was born in Osaka (1972). The artist lives and works in Berlin.
Haruki Yukutake, ‘Restructure’, (2006) at the Echigo-tsumari Art Triennial in Tokamachi, Niigata, Japan.
Like an arrow pointing upwards, the roof of Harumi Yukutake’s ‘Restructure’ casts an angled shadow over a mirrored facade. In recent years, mirrored glass has become the artist’s signature material which she usually employs for site-specific commissions that reflect the environments they inhabit.
Harumi Yukutake was born in Tokyo (1966). The artist lives and works in Tokyo.
Emiko Kasahara, ‘K1001K’, Parasophia: Kyoto International Festival of Culture’, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art (2015). Photo: Nick West
Emiko Kasahara was born in Tokyo (1963). The artist lives and works in Tokyo.
Rokudenashiko, ‘Pussy Boat’ (2014).
Using a crowd-funding platform, 3D-printing and the wildfire of internet publicity, Rokudenashiko became internationally known in 2014 for creating a kayak modelled on a scan of her vagina. Whether you see ‘Pussy Boat’ as an urgent call for gender equality, a deliberate test of archaic censorship regulations, or both, the response of the authorities was to arrest and imprison the artist for the alleged violation of Japanese obscenity laws. Rokudenashiko was released after a week when more than 21,000 people signed an online petition urging the government to free her.
Rokudenashiko (Megumi Igarashi) was born in Aichi Prefecture (1972).
Kayo Ume, From ‘Ume-me’ (2006).
A child on the back of their parents bicycle bends backwards to pull an upside-down face for the camera. Four elementary school students are suddenly stunned into a lifeless, gruesome parody. A man makes a phone call with a glob of rice stuck to his head.
Initially, her photos could seem to belong to any number of online image boards, but combined they offer something much lighter, more serendipitous and optimistic than you might expect. Pulling faces, playing dead and having accidents, Ume’s photos manage to be more precious of chance happenings for being less precious of production values.
Kayo Ume was born in Ishikawa Prefecture (1981).
Rei Naito, ‘Matrix’ (2010). Photo: Noboro Morikawa.
Rei Naito was born in Hiroshima (1961). The artist lives and works in Tokyo.
To see more of this artwork: Matrix
Yayoi Kusama, ‘Love is Calling’ (2013).
Yayoi Kusama’s enduring practice occupies an equally exceptional and obsessive place in contemporary Japanese art. Applying abstract and pop aesthetics to an installation-led and site-specific practice, she saturates surfaces, spaces and entire environments with her signature form – the polka dot. The accumulated patterns of her repeated motif wrap surfaces or refract through mirrors, spectral and incessant; “[…] Polka dots are a way to infinity”.
Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto (1929). The artist lives and works in Tokyo.
©Nick West 2017