Geneva – Pace presents a survey of drawings by Yoshitomo Nara at its Geneva gallery. On view from November 17, 2023, the exhibition will mark the artist’s first-ever solo show in the Swiss city. Tracing more than three decades of his career, Yoshitomo Nara: The Bootleg Drawings 1988 – 2023 will bring together nearly 200 works on paper informed by politics, punk rock, folk music, and 1960s counterculture along with the artist’s own memories, childhood experiences, and his years spent living in Germany.
Yoshitomo Nara, Assorted Drawings
© Yoshitomo Nara, Courtesy Pace Gallery
For his upcoming exhibition, Nara has culled a selection of never-before seen works which embraces somewhat raw and unfiltered sensibility. Individually, each drawing in the show sheds light on the artist’s aesthetic interests and approach to figuration at different points in his life. Together, these works present a holistic, deeply personal picture of his career through the lens of a singular medium.
Created in notebooks and on found materials ranging from corrugated cardboard to envelopes and newspapers, Nara’s spontaneous drawings featuring youthful figures, anthropomorphised animals, song lyrics, and expletives are fundamentally intimate reflections of his psychological landscape. In Nara’s hands, aesthetic signifiers of youth—like large heads and wide eyes—tap into complex emotions and psychic states, from rebellious and resistant to quiet, contemplative, and lonely.
The artist began doodling as a young child, practicing during classes, as he walked home from school, and at his childhood home in the semi-rural town of Hirosaki in northern Japan. Since Nara’s youth, music has been a hugely important force and influence in his work and life. Purchasing his first album at eight years old, he has always seen music as inextricable from his drawing process, with the sounds from his records transfiguring his ideas and feelings into images on the page.
The earliest drawings in Nara’s forthcoming exhibition with Pace in Geneva date to 1988, the year he moved to Germany to attend the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. There, he studied under artist A.R. Penck, who encouraged Nara to combine his drawing and painting practices—an important moment in the development of his signature style. A selection of Nara’s bold figurations from 1989 on view in Pace’s exhibition reflect the violent rawness of Penck’s work. In departing from gridded compositions of composite parts in favour of singular subjects and motifs set against flattened backgrounds, these works are preludes to a significant shift in the direction of Nara’s painting style a few years later: large, rounded heads against plain backgrounds.
In Nara’s expansive practice—which encompasses painting, photography, large-scale installation, and sculpture—drawing is the medium through which he expresses his humour and introspective sensibilities most vividly. Interspersed with song lyrics and slogans, figurative images of skateboarders, mermaids, and guitar players speak to the artist’s personal, freewheeling musings. For Nara, drawing is a deeply personal act of refinement and experimentation when it comes to both ideas and technical processes.
November Friday 17, 2023 - February Thursday 29, 2024
Pace Gallery Geneva
Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 - 18:00
*Closed day: Sundays and Mondays