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Tadanori Yokoo's Japanese Style of Art

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After World War II, Japan adopted the western model in rebuilding their nation. The government believes westernization would bring fortune, as part of the project and design was one of the measures used in shaping a westward style of living. (Saiki, 9) The adoption of international styles from the westernize ideals resulted in the lost of Japanese culture. The postwar design was driven by an aware and unprepared desire to appeal, follow and exceed the international countries. However, the aim was aggravated by creators the compulsion and necessity to unfold what defines Japan individually. Questioning themselves what would best describe the country, suitable images and what was essentially Japan when designing their work.

Some of them reproduced U.S art and design for a time. Others dig back into the long-establish practice for icons and techniques while a mass fused both together. (Saiki) A pattern fusing both western and Japan traditional was seen in various artist as the beginning to adopt to resisting the international styles. According to Thomas R. H. Havens said: “Japan’s interaction with the west resulted in a new expression of self-identity through art” .

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Yokoo’s style of art was an interpretation of individualism his own unique way of conveying through visual language. As refer from the site “artist resisted old-fashion, international style “modernity” and sought erotic rejuvenation in the indigenous arts of Japan. Whose forms and iconography they aggressively combine with elements of western popular culture”. (Richie, 2018) In 1960s artists were creating new forms of art that move away from modernism by incorporate Japanese element in western pop culture style. This could be seen in Tadanori yokoo’s poster his choice of language conveying the of idea rebelling the international style that was flooded into society at that point in time. During the 60s, besides Tadanori Yokoo, there were other artists as well as Hirano Koga, Terayama Shuji and Kaneko Kuniyoshi rejects the present dominantly design culture. (Goodman, 1999).

Hirano Koga creates posters and brochures for the black tent theatre between 1968 and 1982. His works for the production house shows a variation of style however frequently display the technique of transparent layers of colours and multiple levels of type. Display of having both western and Japanese elements in his work. The inspiration behind his pieces arrived upon Berlin dada influence which he translated into a method of putting the Japanese written character in the horizontal and vertical direction which did not commonly appear together at the same time. (Heller, 2011).

Angura Theatre Another example of resisting the western culture could be seen in the new approach at Japanese theatre trying to move away from the westernized idea of play at that point in time. From the beginning of the 1900s, western ideals of beauty in choreography and theatrical constructions such as the set design have as well as theatrical gradually shadowed the traditional Japanese act’s theory of art. During the avant-garde evolution in the 1950s, various art industry occupation like Japanese writers, artist, performers and choreographers tried to imply the western ideal of beauty. The idea was gradually introduced to the diverse artistic methods from literature to art along with theatre and dance, making an effort to restore its Japanese national intelligent and creative identification. (Breiten).

“Koshimaki Osen” poster designed for the Anguru theatre also known as “underground” theatre, a movement in the business of plays during the 1960s. Formed by creating a new direction in the theatre scene where they rejected the style of Shigeki theatre. Shigeki introduced western-style realist plays focusing on realist acting and text-based production. It was not just simply a theatre of modern methods, contemporary plays or political debates but some may possible led to confusion of Japan’s sense of history and identification. (Eckersall, 9) Often people engaging in Angura practice traced back to the roots of Japanese traditional form in their play such as Kabuki and Noh.(Kawamura) Butoh, part of the Angura theatre movement was a style developed out of a collaboration between Hijikata and his contemporary, OHno Kazuo, to create a specifically Japanese dance approach that challenged and surpassed both western modern and traditional Japanese dance movements. (Breiten).

An evident to resist the method of taking up western ideal instead embarking on a new form that expressed its historical component as well. Demonstration of an unique visual language Yokoo’s style of art was his unique way of conveying his thoughts through visual language. Uses images as the fundamental behind his creation and bringing over the forms of traditional Japanese woodcuts method also know as ukiyo-e that fuse along well with the modern style. (, 2015) Unlike painting or composition arrived from the modern art which may take aesthetic of the art piece into consideration these this criteria was irrelevant to Yokoo ’s because his creative development was based on a particular perspective of representation and pictures. (Yokoo and Chandès).

According to Vera Mackie, Yokoo’s incorporating Japanese cultural advertence were from “His choice of images, text and print were connecting to the Japanese woodblock prints, handbills for advertising sumo wrestling, motifs from Japanese-style playing cards, everyday objects, elements borrowed from the graphic design of Europe and other countries.”. Through Yokoo’s works, we could spot the repeated motifs appearing in the series of posters that he created. The artist has he’s very own extraordinary dictionary of images that he builds up. Every image used had its own symbolic meaning behind and reveals bits of the Japan historical situation. The choice of his images that was brought across his creation of works reveal Yokoo having a sense of patriotic feeling towards Japan. Indicated by the creator frequent use of rising sun graphic, bullet train and “peach boy” representing the nation’s postwar advancement.

The bullet train was also known as Shinkansen train seen positioned on the bottom of the poster represent Japan’s earlier stage of modernisation, during postwar Japan’s fast and ambiguous grown which may suggest having ruined the nation’s very own traditional culture. Rising Sun symbolize military history with the U.S that had resulted in Japan adopting towards a modernized society. (Mount, 2010). Wave stylised graphic showed on the bottom half of the poster reminds people of Katsushika Hoksusai’s “Under the wave off Kanagawa” also known as the Great waves.

A woodblock pattern that was from the previous era. It was one of the most distinguished and iconic works of japanese art. The flower graphic is an image of peony found in Japanese traditional playing cards, Hanafuda. (Mackie, 98) Picture cited from The huge peach suggests as a metaphor for Japan’s postwar advancement, drawing the idea from an Edo-period folktale a long-childless couple finds a large peach and opening it discovers a lovely baby boy. (Mount, 2010) The typographic style “Koshimaki Osen” was a common style that was found in handbills given out to people at that period. (Mackie, 97) Indication of his inner Japanese self that was trying to drive away from the modernization and tracking back to the roots of Japan.

How is it a form of resistance? How does all this shows that he’s tryin to resist the westernize culture – INCLUDE IT IN comparison to the works from international ideas / movement that influenced during the time painting or artworks were pretty much like the western art movement going. no use of japan traditional elements in it. Yokoo’s unique visual language was a display of rejection towards the clean and geometric international style that grew during the 60s. (Mackie, 97) Koshimaki Osen print shows an indication of moving away from the international style with its underlying symbolic meaning behind every motif that was used speaks on the nation historical view. It was an application of combing both western and Japanese element in a print which was not commonly done in his generation.

During the 60s, designers used few graphic images that provided acceptance of their original culture. International ideas were preferred over Asian, and there were not much of views or appearance on traditional folk art. Instead, it was flooded with abstract symbols that represent the modern era. Posters produced between 1954 and 1960s have a fifties look with clean, event, disproportional organization and sans serif type. They were important to Japan because they embraced the international style. (Goodman, 1999) It was an evident Yokoo’s creation was one pioneer that was trying to resist the influx of international style that was taking over the nation after world war two ends. The artworks that he had created was not on the parallel exist when the nation chose to take on the modern style while designers aim to blend Old japan techniques into their content. (Saiki)


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