Moscow, Nakameguro
Closes Aug. 25

“Painting is a compulsion. I don’t really have a choice,” says 36-year-old Toronto native Rob Judges in an interview at the opening of his two-man show, “Hello, It’s We,” with fellow Canadian, DJ partner and cousin Mike Ness.

Judges wears pop art on his sleeve and has built a strong reputation for his visual bombardment of neon signage; never-ending totem poles; Ku Klux Klan hoods deliberately appropriated from Philip Guston’s works; war-time comic strip frames; and witty, pop-culture painting titles.

Inspired by Vaughn Bode, Robert Crumb and the seminal album-cover work of Raymond Pettibon, Judges doesn’t object to his work being labeled as a riff on pop art, but he does add that, “To narrow it down, I like to paint about specific themes such as freedom, humor, beauty, love and nostalgia.”

It’s also clear that his encyclopedic knowledge of music and work as a DJ has had a profound influence on his creative process. “Pop music is full of imagery from record sleeves to fashion,” he says. “There’s a very compelling visual side of 20th-century music.”

Ness, a 27-year old graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, is a relative newcomer to Tokyo but he admits that the capital has already affected his work. “Tokyo inspires me a lot,” he explains. “How exciting and lively the city is and how lustful it makes me feel.”

The compact collection of small works that comprise “Hello, It’s We” at Moscow were completed in 2011, and the show covers new territory for Judges, a response to changes in his romantic life. “I’m doing small works because I’ve had so many feelings come and go; each feeling I get is kind of a wave worthy of a small painting,” he says.

Ness’ work, which could be described as “emotional surrealism,” communicates love, sex and humor. This is particularly evident in pieces such as “Raging Heterosexual” and “Never Being Boring” — a naughty, playful and perverted self-portrait.

Moscow is a 12 min. walk from Nakameguro Station (Toyoko and Hibiya lines); admission free; open 8 p.m.- late. For more information on Moscow, visit www.moscow-lounge.com (Japanese only).

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