Tokyo Nonsense is compromised by 11 young Japanese artists who live and work in Tokyo and curated by Gabriel Ritter. This exciting exhibition will include works by Ichiro Endo, Taro Izumi, Ai Kato (akaai madonna), Sachiko Kazama, Iichiro Tanaka, and the six-member artist group, Chim↑Pom.
The title, TOKYO NONSENSE, not only refers to the city itself but also references the word “nonsense” in the context of Japanese popular culture, connoting so-called “modern decadence”and the rebellious, anti-establishment spirit of the 1960s student protest movement. The work of these 11 young artists reflects both Tokyo’s frenetic energy and the banal realities of everyday city life. The exhibition will consist of more radical forms of expression such as performance,video, and installation art in addition to more traditional mediums such as drawing, painting, and woodblock printing.
Within the Japanese vernacular the word “nonsense” has assumed various meanings throughout modern history, often associated with radical expression that challenged the dominant discourse of the moment. In the early 1930s, “nonsense” was included in the phrase ero-guro-nansensu,which the Japanese mass media used to label decadent and salacious popular culture (literature,film, theatre) that was viewed as a threat to traditional family values. Then in the late 1960s,“nonsense” became the rally cry for the disaffected Japanese students who protested to express their frustration with the current political and social situation at home and abroad. The rebellious spirit evoked by the word “nonsense” in Japan continues today, reincarnated and rearticulated by this group of young artists working in Tokyo. Their work simultaneously reflects the precedent setby the “nonsense” of the 1930s—labeled as absurd and meaningless by the dominant discourse—while dismissing the dominant discourse itself as pure “nonsense,” reminiscent of theprotest tactics employed in the 1960s.
In order to articulate this duality, many of the featured artists have chosen to work outside the traditional gallery/museum system by turning to radical forms of expression such as performance,video, and installation art. The six-member artist group Chim↑Pom creates video and sculpture that capture an irreverent, raw energy that was born on the streets and back alleys of Tokyo.While their performances evoke vulgar adolescent pranks, the growing social consciousness in their work is evidenced by their recent project disarming minefields in Cambodia. Kazama Sachiko is best known for her black-and-white woodblock prints that parody Japanese history,politics, and social issues with a healthy sense of irony and sarcasm. The work of Izumi Tarotakes its form as video, installation, and drawing characterized by the use of found objects and alow-tech, do-it-yourself aesthetic. In his humorous yet ultimately defeatist works, the artist quietly vents his feelings of frustration through futile games and nonsensical play. The performances and mural paintings of Endo Ichiro rely on the artist’s body to communicate his intense optimism and spirited calls for change. Utilizing the energetic motto “GO FOR FUTURE!,” Endo’s work explores the future’s endless creative possibilities through the limited means of the present. Kato Ai (akaai madonna) has amassed a cult following through her live painting performances in Akihabara, where the she paints directly onto the side of her parked van. The means of executing her girlie, anime-inspired paintings share the vitality of a street performer, while creatively circumventing the traditional gallery system by exhibiting her works directly to the public. Lastly Tanaka Iichiro creates humorous, understated works in a variety of media that seemingly deny having any serious meaning. These deceptively simple works skillfully “turn meaning on its head,” blurring the line between the absurd and the profound.
Curating this exhibition is Gabriel Ritter, an independent curator specializing in contemporary Japanese art. His curatorial projects include Out of the Ordinary: New Video from Japan at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007) and Rinko Kawauchi: AILA at the UC Riverside Museum of Photography (2005). He has also contributed catalogue essays to the latest monographs of the artists Makoto Aida and Koki Tanaka.
The opens on October at the impressive Scion Installation L.A. Gallery and will run through to October 25.