When Koichi Watari, the director of the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art contacted Yoshitomo Nara to organize a solo exhibition of his work, the artist was traveling around Hokkaido and Sakhalin with photographer and hard-core explorer Naoki Ishikawa. Nara suggested to Watari that they do a two-person show, and the result is “To The North, From Here,” which combines two very different practices. It is worth mentioning this, as one of the key concerns of the exhibition could be said to be the process of becoming, both on a personal and on a grander historical scale.

Nara is well-known for his paintings and installations featuring children who are by turns fierce, cute and pathetic, and which helped define a new generation of Japanese contemporary art. Ishikawa’s work is more austere; using extreme climates and locations, his work has achieved distinction by eschewing the melodrama of travel photography and treating the spectacular scenes he encounters with subtlety and restraint. The two of them working together has resulted in a display of tangible objects and images, but the exhibition can also be seen as documentation of past events, in which the artefacts are secondary.

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