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With a play on words in the title, Yamaguchi Akira’s Forum exhibition is a humorous tribute to his native Tokyo – revealed here as a city both familiar and exotic, captured in a nostalgic vision embracing past, present, and future.
Tokyo has been an important motif in Yamaguchi Akira’s work since his university training – and a vital medium for the expression of his comic vision of everyday life in the urban landscape. The lively, graphic quality of his work combines humour with a gentle melancholy, highlighting the artist’s passionate love of his native city in scenes from neighbourhoods and ways of life now lost.
The winner of the Taro Okamoto Memorial Award for contemporary art in 2001, Yamaguchi Akira (b. 1969) studied oil painting at Tokyo University and has since developed a distinctive style rooted in an ironic mix of dreams and everyday life. His technically sophisticated work draws on his deep knowledge of Japanese art history and classical decorative painting (Yamato-e).
The Forum exhibition presents mostly recent works, including Yamaguchi’s celebrated trademark bird’s-eye views, and installations featuring telegraph poles and old-fashioned telephone boxes, once key elements in the Tokyo streetscape, immortalized in the collective memory. Here, the visitor enters the artist’s nostalgic vision, drawn to a setting that faithfully recaptures Tokyo’s pervasive aesthetic – outside the play of past and present.
Transcending time, Yamaguchi Akira’s world is at once close and distant, frequently combining traditional techniques and contemporary motifs.