Keichi Tanaami

Poster for a Japanese men’s weekly. From Graphis Annual 69/70.

Golden Shangri-la

“There was an allure to the air of excitement they exuded and the life they lived, these artists who had adopted antiart, the polar opposite of [commercial arts]. It occurred to me that this mode of expression that stripped away every sort of institution and constraint, that this, too, was indispensable to me.”

“I want us to break away from the fixed notion that printed material = facsimile, and to comprehend it rather as the existence of an infinite number of original works. The notions of the quality or the rarity value of a painting are a myth from an era dominated by the idea that only the single piece containing the trace of the artist and every thought within, constituted as art, the pure form of painting.”

Double Jane
Acrylic on canvas
H86 x W117 cm

Crayon Angel
acrylic on canvas
67 x 100 cm

Sweet Friday 1
acrylic on canvas
67 x 100 cm

Double Twiggy
Acrylic on canvas
145.5 x 97 cm

Afterwards, in 1975, Tanaami was hired as the first art director for the Japanese edition of Monthly Playboy, and went to America once again to visit the Playboy Magazine headquarters. The editor there took Tanaami to Andy Warhol’s studio, The Factory. Following his experience of “explosive culture shock” in America in the 1970s, Tanaami created a great number of works that provoked all sorts of taboos, such as antisocial themes, critiques of the system, and the liberation of sexual expression. A series of silkscreen works that made heavy use of lewd images from porn magazines ORGY, LUV, and SCREW, which he had collected in downtown New York, were exhibited in 1971 at Celluloid Born in America (Gallery Décor) and in 1974 at Super Orange of Love Series (Nishimura Gallery); due to the vanguard nature of the sexually explicit depictions, the latter exhibition was shut down for police inspection.



The publication NO MORE WAR presents a group of recently discovered sculptural works created by the Japanese pop-art pioneer Keiichi Tanaami (b. 1936, Tokio) in the 1980s

He contributed work to the No More War poster special feature in the American magazine Avant Garde that same year. Then, in 1969, under the title of Image Director, he published the legendary book, Illustrated Book of Imaginary Tomorrow, a compilation of the underground art scene in Tokyo in the 1960s. The images included in the book had no boundaries: Marilyn Monroe, underground New York newspapers, Pinky & Killers, GeGeGe no Kitaro, American comic book heroes, Self-Defense Force personnel, Gewalt students, Hitler and the Nazis, groups of naked men and women staging happenings, cursed dolls, wartime Asahi newspaper clippings, the Apollo 11 moon landing, and so on. It was an experimental work, using every conceivable technique of graphic design to edit together the virtual images emitted by the mass media with the myriad images wriggling about inside Tanaami’s brain. In an interview that appears in the book, Tanaami says with enthusiasm: “At this point in time, I entertain absolutely no notion that design could transform the world. Politics are a force; design is not. I’m talking about demonstrations and placards. Making a placard isn’t going to stop the war. This is how I know that designers think of themselves as social elites. I comprehend mass society as a measure of oneself. To that end, we must first tear apart the way of thinking known as design. I think it’s complete nonsense that we are still stuck on the impotence of modern design.”

I enjoy how he uses pop art colors and motifs,  while still retaining the style of traditional Japanese prints. His use of repetition is very successful, and is very strong pop art style, reminds me of works by Andy Warhol. His works blended Japanese manga with American hero comics, which was very unique.

Andy Warhol also inspired him to not limit to one medium and work on different platforms, as well as use contemporary motifs in his artworks.



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