ART & DESIGN

Girls, Girls, Girls!

Where the artist Yoshitomo Nara conceives his enchanting enfants terribles.


Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara
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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

Yoshitomo Nara (left) lives in the countryside north of Tokyo, but he could be anywhere. “What matters is that the interior of the studio becomes my own—that the space becomes my ally,” says the 53-year-old artist, whose first show with Pace Gallery in New York runs May 10 through June 29. Since childhood, Nara has surrounded himself with cheap toys and dolls culled from flea markets and garbage dumps. “I came to empathize with them, to imagine narratives for them,” he says. And while his subjects are still the petulant children that have made him a cult figure in his native Japan, his style has matured. He’s even working in bronze. “I think this reflects a move away from living in the here and now, toward becoming conscious of creating something that will last after I’m gone.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“For my works on canvas, I don’t do sketches, but these billboard paintings (above) are based on drawings that I like.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“Having to sharpen colored pencils while I’m in the middle of a drawing is a bit of a pain…”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“This is a fiberglass mold (left) for what will eventually become a sculpture in bronze.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“My studio walls are covered with posters of my heroes: the Ramones, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain. When I play loud music in the middle of the night, it feels like my studio is a spaceship and I’m going on a voyage in zero gravity.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“A corner of my studio. I always have music within reach.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“This painting is very close to being done. Once I have visualized a piece to this level of clarity, it’s relatively simple to paint.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“The window of my study looks out onto a grassy field. In my studio I mostly listen to CDs, but here I play LPs.”

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Photographer: Yoshitomo Nara

“When I’m working on a large painting, I don’t stand on a stool to reach the top, I turn the painting upside down. Sometimes, I put another finished painting next to it to refer to.”

Courtesy of Pace Gallery, New York, and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.