Tomoo Gokita (b. 1969, Tokyo, Japan) developed his signature style of monochromatic and greyscale painting from his career as a graphic designer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Inspired by vintage magazines, film stills, pornography, and postcards he produced a series of newsprint books, some of which gained cult status, such as Lingerie Wrestling (2000). Gokita’s penchant for pop culture immediately made him a celebrated figure within the fashion and music scenes, but the attention left him feeling creatively stifled. In 2005, he set aside graphic design entirely for the unconstrained artistic freedom of painting and drawing. From the beginning of his career as an artist, Gokita has worked in a broad but distinctive range of styles and subject matter. His pencil and ink drawings range from suburban scenes depicted in photo-realistic detail to cartoonish renditions of wrestler masks. Earlier canvases from the late 2000s tend towards ethereal abstraction, be it writhing organic forms, tessellating geometric patterns, or heavily distorted figures isolated within ambiguous backgrounds. Whether the compositions are loose or tight, Gokita says, “There’s nothing haphazard, not even an accidental drip-in them.” In recent years, his piercing, psychologically charged paintings have portrayed subjects in sharper focus, yet, whether depicting wrestlers, starlets, dancers, or newlyweds, the artist shrouds these styled cultural types in an atmosphere of eerie anonymity. Some compositions seem grounded in specific art-historical references—ranging from Surrealism to post-war German figurative painting—yet are often imbued with the syntax of mainstream culture and its more obscure undercurrents. Viewers are left scavenging their memories for cultural indicators or contexts to complete the elusive, often inscrutable narratives before them.
Major recent museum solo shows include PEEKABOO at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2018), and a retrospective, THE GREAT CIRCUS, at Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan (2014). His work has also been featured in notable surveys such as Wonderful My Art, Kawaguchiko Museum of Art, Yamanashi, Japan (2013); The Unseen Relationship: Form and Abstraction, Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan (2012); Gateway: Japan, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (2011); New York Minute, MACRO Future Museum, Rome, Italy (2009); and Collected Visions, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey (2009). In 2001 he was awarded Gold Prize at The Art Directors Club 80th Annual Awards, New York.
Tomoo Gokita: Peekaboo
Tomoo Gokita: The Great Circus