visible darkness, invisible darkness
March 17 - April 23, 2016
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Sikkema Jenkins & Co. is pleased to present Visible Darkness/Invisible Darkness, a solo exhibition of paintings by Keiichi Tanaami, on view at the gallery from March 17 to April 23, 2016. This is the artist’s second solo show at the gallery and his first solo exhibition in America to feature new large-scale paintings.
Tanaami, born 1936 in Tokyo, has had a decades long career working in a broad array of mediums including graphic design, film, collage and animation. Since the early 2000s he has been making mixed media paintings. This body of work contains powerful images drawn from dreams and memories, most notably those from his experiences as a child during World War II. Animated skulls and fighter planes are depicted in many of the paintings; however, some of the more grotesque and unusual images come from a single vivid memory of rushing with his family to a bomb shelter while catching sight of bomber planes and search lights through his grandfather’s goldfish tank. The lurid and dramatic lights bounced off the fish and tank, creating a surreal scene. While horrifying and scary, this visually powerful moment held a sense of wonder and awe that remains with the artist to this day.
Tanaami came of age in post-war Japan and began his career in advertising. Finding the work artistically unfulfilling, he ventured into the burgeoning 1960s Japanese art scene and began making collages and films influenced by American mass culture, B movies, and a trip to New York where he visited Warhol’s factory. He befriended artists from the Japanese anti-art movement Neo Dada Organizers while they were making their groundbreaking work. Like other Pop artists he was also inspired by eroticism, an impulse that eventually led him to become an editor of Playboy Japan in 1975.
Reflected in the new paintings featured in the exhibition is Tanaami’s engagement with his contemporary artistic environment and continued reimagining of traditional Japanese iconography. Cherry blossoms, Guzei bridges and Buddha figures are featured alongside roosters and tigers, inspired by the work of Ito Jakachu, an 18th century scroll painter. Tanaami, now in his 80s, is making his largest and most technically ambitious work to date. Unique to his practice in terms of scale, the new paintings are emblematic of Tanaami’s evolving career and myriad international influences.
Tanaami has been included in the recent exhibitions: International Pop at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern, London; Unorthodox at the Jewish Museum, New York; Puddle, pothole, portal at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York; Japanese Underground Cinema Program 6: Radical Experiments in Japanese Animation at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and No More War at Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin.
Philadelphia’s International House will host an evening of Tanaami’s films from the 1970s on March 15th at 7pm. The event is organized in conjunction with exhibition International Pop, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through May 15.