Broadcasts: Musing with Tomoo Gokita

Blum & Poe Broadcasts presents musings by artists and curators from their homes to yours.

On the occasion of his exhibition FRESH, currently on view at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, Tomoo Gokita answers the question, "Who have you been influenced by?"

Tomoo Gokita, Silence (detail), 2021, acrylic on canvas

"Who have you been influenced by?"

This is a standard question that comes up every time I’m interviewed by magazines and newspapers on the occasion of solo exhibitions or book launches. It's too ambitious to list everyone who has had an impact on me, so recently I’ve been saying that the biggest influence is the professional wrestler, Antonio Inoki. This answer is neither a lie nor a joke, it's completely true, but most interviewers think otherwise—they laugh, change the question, or go cold on me. Well, that doesn’t matter, but on this occasion I’d like to focus on the artists who have influenced me.

 

Tomoo Gokita, Lingerie Wrestling (Tokyo: Little More Books, 2000)
Tomoo Gokita, Lingerie Wrestling (Tokyo: Little More Books, 2000)

When I was in elementary school, I was into Tadanori Yokoo. I especially loved the graphic design of his posters, which I remember drawing often. And when I was in junior high school, I was obsessed with Teruhiko Yumura, who was a major figure in Heta-uma illustration—a Japanese underground manga movement of that time. For better or worse, I was inspired by his theory of heta-uma (namely, poor technique but good sense). When I was in high school, I was powerfully impacted by Shinro Ohtake's solo exhibition at the Sagacho Exhibit Space and I vaguely started to think about becoming a painter and artist. At the same time, I was struck by the New Painting movement, with works by Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, and David Salle, and greatly energized by Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, and Genpei Akasegawa.

Tomoo Gokita, FRESH, installation view, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, 2021, Photo: Heather Rasmussen

Musicians like Thelonious Monk, James Brown, Haruomi Hosono, Derek Bailey, and Brian Eno have been the source of my creative motivation on countless occasions. If I start listing them, it will never end, so I should leave it there—even if it’s a bit lazy. In the end, if I were asked to name just one person who had the biggest influence on me, without doubt it’s Antonio Inoki.

Tomoo Gokita, DUET #2, 2019
Acrylic, acrylic gouache, watercolor, and pastel on canvas
76 3/8 x 76 1/2 inches
Tomoo Gokita, Living Together, 2018
Acrylic gouache on canvas
51 1/4 x 51 1/4 x 1 inches
Tomoo Gokita, Replicant J.B., 2018
Acrylic gouache on canvas
51 1/4 x 51 1/4 x 1 inches
Tomoo Gokita, Dancing Queen, 2021
Acrylic on canvas
63 3/4 x 64 x 1 1/4 inches

What got me obsessed with Inoki was watching a videotape of him in the 1970s at a friend’s house when I was in the fourth grade. Without any reasoning I just instinctively thought, “This man is amazing! This is no ordinary person.” As you know, professional wrestling is a profoundly mysterious form of sports entertainment that differs from pure sports or mere drama. Inoki vehemently countered the general public’s perception of professional wrestling as bogus. “I’ll make the world recognize whatever I want!” Perhaps it was that intense spirit of rebelliousness that moved me. 

Tomoo Gokita, Ballet (Tokyo: Zine's Mate, 2009)
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