About a year ago, and not uncommon to most artists in NYC, the tendrils of self-doubt began to wind their way around my throat. Looking at a poor man’s future and browsing websites of all the clothes that I could rock the shit out of but couldn’t afford, I was inspired to become a graphic designer— which is even more not uncommon to most artists in NYC. Thankfully that only lasted two months, but this was the dude who inspired me. I was walking through MoMa and stumbled across an exhibit on Tokyo avant-garde, and saw Tadanori Yokoo’s incredible posters that were exploding off the walls with colors and patterns, a giant middle finger to the trend of minimalist fonts and designs. He calls it “a rebellious approach to Modernist aesthetics.”
Tadanori Yokoo was born in 1936 Japan. If you think about the post-WW2 world he grew up in, it’s easy to see how his surroundings shaped his art. While I hate to critique and inject symbolism into an artist’s work, I feel like (here I go) there’s a struggle of pride and shame, with western influences interspersed.
This was not the first time his presence graced this museum. Apparently he was such a boss that in 1972, he was the first living graphic designer to get a solo exhibition at MoMa for his designs.
I think it’s his mastery that really stood out to me from a lot of other pieces of art in MoMa. Modern art is very conceptual, and Tadanori takes an extremely classic form of the hyper-symmetrical poster and then executes his vision with next-level technique. There’s a sea of art these days that is great in concept but fails in execution and I felt for a second when I saw this that I found land.
I wish I could do more research on him and provide a more in-depth understanding, but nahhh, I’m not getting paid for this. I think this nice lady did just that though, and it’s very sexily packaged.
Here’s a nice little interview with Tadanori Yokoo and a survey in the The Japan Times of his life and later departure from design and shift towards painting. He’s 77 now.
Oh and I never followed through on becoming a graphic designer, but that’s not Tadanori’s fault, that’s totally on me.