Yokoo Tadanori in Kobe

Looking for something creative to do in Kobe, Japan? OiOi Arts has the perfect suggestion!

…Check out the Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art! Housed in a modern building is a dedicated catalogue of works by acclaimed Japanese graphic designer and painter: Yokoo Tadanori.

I was VERY excited to be in Japan when we visited earlier this year. I have a couple books on the traditional prints of Hokusai which i’ve always loved – A Sudden Gust of Wind being my favorite. Of course I’d also been looking forward to seeing work by Yayoi Kusama (which was every bit as goosebump inducing as i’d imagined!).

I love travelling and bringing you all the creative things I see as I go. I’m always surprised by how I still find it all so exciting. So exciting that on this trip I threw up when I saw Mount Fuji. Yes, apparently i’m that person.

Yokoo Tadanori

During one of the wetter days we decided to check out the Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art while in Kobe.

Born in 1936 Tadanori is one of Japan’s most internationally acclaimed graphic designers. Rising to fame in the 60’s. His psychedelic pop art prints have been compared to the likes of Warhol, whose work I recently saw right here in Edinburgh. I love the vibrancy and eclectic mix of colours, and juxtaposed images – so much I bought one of his books! (Pics above and below)

In 1981 he decided to stop all commercial work and took a detour into painting. It was a selection of these works which were being exhibited when we visited. Quite the departure from his earlier works, but still playing with a concept of an augmented reality or alternate universe.

He plays with themes including Dante’s Divine Comedy, where the seven levels of purgatory are prominent. There’s a lot going on in his paintings, much like his previous graphic work, however they are clearly very painterly and the shift into fine art is evident! The overall gallery space was very dark, reflecting the moody dark tones in his work. It served it well, very atmospheric!

With a back catalog spanning over 40 years there is plenty of work to keep this gallery engaging for visitors!

Mystery Woman

Also showing was Death and Dreams, comprising three exhibitions in one. The first: Mystery Woman features work started in 2016 and has a focus subject of glamorous woman from post war packaging, like match stick boxes and other found objects from his hometown. He added a playful element by obscuring their faces with everyday household objects like Books, toilet paper… cabbage.

Falling Woman

Falling Woman is from 2010. These paintings are all of women exposing themselves, and once again plays with a similar theme of obscuring the face. There is a tension created between the revealing and juxtaposed, hidden elements. The artist has said that this work stems from his time as a child when he would visit the bath houses with his mother. A time he has described as erotic, fearful and formative!

Back of the Head

HThe final body of work in this exhibition was Back of the Head, a watercolour collection from the early 1980s that marked his departure away from graphic design. Set in a smaller, softly lit space, you were met with a wall of paintings. I felt the most connection to this work. As a woman I felt this body of work was really conversational in our current climate, despite being created over 3 decades ago! The way that artwork can be so subjective and speak in different ways to the viewer is something about art that i’ve always loved and appreciated.

A really cool collection of work in a more ‘off the beaten track gallery’ that we hadn’t planned on visiting, but were SO glad we did! If you find yourself in Kobe and are looking for a creative detour – make this it!

Kobe is also famed for it’s Kobe beef (massaged cows make the meat tender…) and octopus! DELICIOUS.

Looking to visit? Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art

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Check out the rest of my blog/website, to get a feel for what makes me tick! See you next time…

*All photos taken by Anna Thomson for OiOi Arts. All images of artworks remain sole copyright of the artist, OiOi Arts uses images solely for the purpose of exhibition/gallery promotion.

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  • Reply
    January 26, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    This looks like such a great museum! I also really like Hokusai’s work. I was in Japan last year but did not have a chance to go to Kobe.

    • Reply
      Anna Thomson
      January 26, 2019 at 6:46 pm

      It really was, and such a nice unexpected surprise! I was really hoping to see a Hokusai exhibition while in Japan… that would have been the cherry on top. There’s always next time I guess 😉

  • Reply
    Josy A
    January 26, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    This museum is fantastic! I used to live near Kobe, so now I am really sad that I managed to miss it. It’s funny, but that back of the head gallery reminds me of instagram as so many women post pictures like that!

    I do hope you’ll get to see some hokusai next time, but for now, at least you had an epic art-filled holiday!

    • Reply
      Anna Thomson
      January 26, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      Oh wow, lucky you! Yes I know what you mean, I just couldn’t resist taking that pic. His work was well ahead of its time haha

  • Reply
    January 26, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    That looks like a great museum! We have a local art museum that I’m always visiting as the exhibits change. I try to get into others when we travel. 🙂

    • Reply
      Anna Thomson
      January 27, 2019 at 8:38 am

      It was! Very modern but still very Japanese in the minimalist “heres the work” approach. 🙂

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