Jeffrey Deitch x Shinji Nanzuka Celebrate Japan's Underground Art World
If it's Jeffrey Deitch, it's major, so when Shinji Nanzuka from Tokyo's Nanzuka Underground teamed up with him for a retrospective of Japan's contemporary art scene, it was – major. Opening September 14th at Deitch's Wooster Street space, Tokyo Pop Underground presents the works of thirteen emergent artists from Japanese pop and underground culture. Accompanied by a solo exhibition by Keiichi Tanaami at their Grand Street gallery, Jeffery Deitch continues his crusade to foster and support the American Underground scene.
Among the contemporary artists featured in our magazine, Japanese art and culture has always been a favorite, as we explore the relationship between the unique aesthetic and craft behind each work. Interestingly, the Japanese language did not have a word for fine art until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the word 'bijutsu' was conceived. Combining Chinese characters bi, for beauty, and jutsu, for craft, this hybrid term set a unique trajectory for Japanese contemporary art. From calligraphy, folding screens, and paintings on sliding paper doors to lacquerware, netsuke and Ukiyo-e prints that served as posters and commercial portraits, most pieces of art in Japan are actually practical items.
Through his gallery, which opened in 2005, Shinji Nanzuka portrays and nurtures contemporary artistic commentaries on Japanese artistic heritage. The new “art for art’s sake” includes works by artists like Keiichi Tanaami, Harumi Yamaguchi and Hajime Sorayama, who are considered popular commercial art producers who challenge authority and uniformity through sex and violence. Celebrated in the international art world as a global phenomenon, such artists are prime exponents of the idiosyncratic nature of local culture and history. Evolving from a generation that rebuilt itself after the ruins of war and numerous natural disasters, contemporary Japanese artists work in a unique cross-cultural exchange that explores the fundamental question, "What is art?"
Tokyo Pop Underground features work by Makoto Azuma, Haroshi, Akiyoshi Mishima, Masato Mori, Tetsuya Nakamura, Yoshiro Nishi aka Yoshirotten, Toshio Saeki, Hajime Sorayama, Makoto Taniguchi, Hiroki Tsukuda, Kazuki Umezawa, and Harumi Yamaguchi. –Sasha Bogojev