Young artists to keep your eye on

by Matthew Larking

Special To The Japan Times

In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1982 novel “Deadeye Dick,” a Japanese man walks into an all-night drugstore and gestures for the protagonist, Rudy Waltz, to follow him outdoors. There they gaze at the decapitated cupola of Rudy’s childhood home, glistening white in the moonlight. It reminds the homesick man of Mount Fuji, the “sacred volcano of Japan.”

Yoshiki Omote caters to that sentimentality in his installation “Traveling Mountain Project 2016.” His mini-trailer supporting a mountain replica is towable by hand. Wherever you go, you can take a reminder of Japan’s beloved national symbol along with you. The artist even displays a photo of the mini-mountain in situ among country fields.

Omote, one of the finalists of the 2016 Contemporary Art Foundation Artist Award, has been selected along with the 15 other Japanese finalists from over the past three years, to show works at a special exhibition held in the Hotel Anteroom Kyoto Gallery 9.5.

The CAF award helps supports promising young artists by providing funding, overseas residencies and wider public recognition with a view to career advancement. Several of the 16 artists represented in this exhibition of 30 works are also on the art monthly Bijutsu Techo’s December list of top 100 newcomers to watch for.

The standouts of the exhibition are Nozomi Tanaka and Yukimasa Ida. Tanaka’s “Harenonohi” draws upon the folklore and culture of Tohoku, the place of her birth, and addresses Japanese art history and recent events. Her mural is a fascinating misty ink bricolage of trees in mountains, nuclear reactors and coastline tetrapods. These cohabit with the gods of wind and thunder, emulating 18th-century Rinpa representations, and thousands of rabbits amassing in an apparent parody of both the 12-13th-century “Scroll of Frolicking Animals” and the 17th-century “Hokoku Festival” screen painting by Naizen Kano.

Ida is a portrait painter who adopts the conventions of the passport ID photograph. His extreme impasto, however, which can be more like squirts of toothpaste in poisonously bright colors, mostly obliterates verifying facial features. “Face — Chinese Mafia,” a portrait of an anonymous gangster, is distorted along the lines of Gerhard Richter’s paintings. The title of another, however, “The end of today 7-21 2016 — Yusaku Maezawa,” ostensibly names the obscured subject: the billionaire retail entrepreneur who acquired Ida’s work for the Tokyo-based CAF collection.

Among the myriad other works of interest are Naoki Tomita’s “No Job” series of five rows of 20 snapshot-sized portraits of young and happy individuals. They sport dyed hair, goatees and colorful clothing as the antithesis of the black-and-white monotony of the conventional job recruitment resume photo. Mio Yamato’s “Repetition Red (dot)” parodies modernist self-expression. Seen from afar, her work appears like broad brushstrokes, up close, however, the apparent streaks of paint comprise thousands of repetitive pin-prick dots.

While an eclectic mix, the featured works at “CAF Art Award: Selected Group Exhibition” represent an intriguing barometer of the state of the field in 2016.

“CAF Art Award: Selected Group Exhibition” at Hotel Anteroom Kyoto Gallery 9.5 runs until Jan. 9; 12 p.m.-7 p.m. Free entry. Closed Dec. 18-20.