On the back of Tomoo Gokita's current solo presentation Fresh at Blum and Poe in LA, Japanese artist we've featured in the Fall 2019 issue is about to open his first North American museum show at Dallas Contemporary. From June 12th, Get Down will feature Tokyo-based artist's latest large-scale paintings, including a number of never-before-seen works made under lockdown during the pandemic.

It was back in March 2020, when Gokita was set to introduce all color works at his solo presentation with Massimo De Carlo Gallery in Milan. With a departure from the iconis monochromatic visual and grayscale palette, the artist set off towards exploring more abstract forms and organic-looking shapes through the use of somewhat subdued colors. Reminiscent of spring changes and the bloom of new life, the presentation was meant to be the celebration of the new direction and the new season, traditionally appreciated in Japanese culture. But then the gloom of pandemic took over the world...

Determined to continue to work with colors (as seen in his followup exhibition with Taka Ishii gallery in Tokyo later in 2020), the artist found his refuge from existential questions during the turbulent times in his artistic practice. "It was a bigger event that my mother died during the production period than the influence of the pandemic," Gokita opened up to Juxtapoz when we asked him to what extent did the events of the past year affect his work. And such an overburdening setting surely informed the tone and the ambience of the pieces created for this showcase as it feels like the artist went towards even more subdued, darkened tones for this presentation. At the same time, he's bringing back the signature motifs of pin-up models, female wrestlers, and family portraiture, alongside some iconographic-type visuals reminiscent of his earliest work influenced by his graphic-design background. With such a selection, he is once again presenting his remarkable range of styles and the unnique dichotomy of abstraction and figuration which he often works with.

"Blum & Poe FRESH show emphasized unity," the artist told us about how this show compares to his other US presentation that is on view. "Dallas shows come in a variety of styles and will confuse viewers. My multiple personality has been revealed." The new works seem to be further experimenting with both the use of color and the painting technique while utilizing some of Gokita's most recurring imagery. On one hand fully removing the faces of his subjects and using the earthly tones to depict the simple scenes in Three Sisters, 2021, or Wrestling Playmates, 2021, the artist is also introducing a new, more expressive way of manipulating watered out acrylics in Remarriage, 2021. This variety of styles extends all the way to borderline realism segments, such as the fur of a surreal character in My Friend, 2021, or the unusually realistically rendered dire scene in Body, 2021. In the end, it feels like the entire disheartened atmosphere of the work is to some extent reimagining or confronting the energetic, soulful James Brown shout which was borrowed for the title of the show. —Sasha Bogojev

Get Down is curated by Dallas Contemporary Executive Director Peter Doroshenko and is made possible with the generous support of MASSIMODECARLO (Milan, London, Hong Kong, Paris) and Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo, Hong Kong), and Blum & Poe (Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo). 

All photos © Tomoo Gokita. Photos by Kenji Takahashi.