The exhibition WAVE presents the rich and varied work of fifty-five Japanese contemporary artists in the media of drawing, painting, and animation. Their creations extend far beyond the realms of manga and anime and represent a diverse and expressive art scene little known outside Japan. Curated by illustrators Kintaro Takahashi and Hiro Sugiyama, WAVE is based on the popular annual art exhibition of the same name, which has been held at Arts Chiyoda in Tokyo since 2018 and each year highlights works by over one hundred of Japan’s leading illustrators, designers, and graphic and contemporary artists.
This JAPAN HOUSE Touring Exhibition brings a broad and varied selection of these works to an international audience for the first time, showcasing the range of styles and designs being explored by Japanese illustrators and graphic artists today and creating new inspiration for artists worldwide tomorrow.
Artists A - F
DOLPHIN DOLPHIN's Smile
Acrylic and gouache on canvas, 28 1/2 x 24 inches, 2020
AC-bu was founded by Tama Art University graduates Toru Adachi (b. 1976), Shunsuke Itakura (b. 1976), and former member Makoto Ando. The team brings their energetic, abbreviated style to illustration and animation, music videos, local advertisements, fine art, and even government voting campaigns. In 2014, they presented their high-speed picture show, Anzen unten no shiori (Safe Driving Guide), at Ars Electronica Animation Festival. One of their most popular characters, Iruka no Iruka-kun (Dolphin Dolphin-kun), which they designed in 2010, is shown here seated with a mysterious smile, in a pose evoking “a certain famous painting.”
The Walrus from the Bookshelf
Acrylic on canvas and wood, 39 1/2 x 32 inches, 1984
As a child, Tokyo artist Suzy Amakane (b. 1956) enjoyed manga. When he was twenty, a David Hockney exhibition inspired him to become a painter. Amakane attended Tama Art University and went on to work in both the fine and commercial arts, blending his loves of manga and pop art into his own unique playful and colorful style. Many of his images feature mischievous young characters, visual puns, and pop-culture allusions. His work has appeared in magazines, on television, and on album covers and labels, and he has also shown in many exhibitions.
Acrylic on wood, 28 1/2 x 24 inches, 2021
Izuru Aminaka (b. 1968) is an illustrator based in Tokyo and Oita prefecture in Kyushu. After graduating from art school and working for an apparel company, she became an independent illustrator, designing book covers for numerous publishers and corporate advertisements. She currently lectures part-time at Oita Prefectural College of Arts and Culture. Often rendered in a dreamlike style with softly painted outlines and set against flat areas of transparent color, her works appear sweet but contain a hint of “poison.” They frequently feature unsmiling women, such as the one depicted here cuddling her Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Although the dog looks directly at the viewer, the woman stares into the distance as if wishing she were elsewhere.
Acrylic and pencil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 21 inches, 2021
Originally from Yamagata prefecture in northern Japan, Ryoji Arai (b. 1956) is a Tokyo-based illustrator who has also worked in advertising and theater set design. He has earned worldwide acclaim for his wide range of illustrated books—from small books for toddlers to picture books of nonsense, fairytales, and poetry—that feature his unique and playful style. In 2005, he was the first Japanese author to win the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature for his “bold, mischievous style” and “musical” color sense. In this dynamic painting, a mysterious white-clad figure stands on a small, colorful stage with wings spread for a grand performance.
Acrylic on paper, 6 x 4 inches each, 2021
Actor, musician, and artist Tadanobu Asano (b. 1973) grew up in a creative family and began taking after-school art classes in kindergarten. As an artist, he enjoys capturing people engaged in various activities. He photographs himself working, sitting, and moving around, and then uses the images as the starting point for his paintings. In this group of four small acrylic works, the figures are set in flat, empty space, as in many traditional Japanese paintings and prints. However, by emphasizing the figures’ shadows and the folds of their clothing, he creates form and motion within the space.
Flowers Bloom in Empty Places
Acrylic on canvas, 21 x 18 inches, 2021
Tokyo-based artist Awai (b. 1981) grew up loving to draw. Although he didn’t formally study art, in college, he majored in design. He still delights in the process of drawing, allowing himself to be led by his subconscious and emotions, so that his manga-style characters often express his own moods and feelings. While the images may reflect sadness or pain, Awai typically adds an element that offers comfort. In this work, he portrays the loneliness of a young girl with a few simple strokes and creates a setting that suggests destruction and loss. Beside the girl, however, a small rabbit provides companionship and solace.
Acrylic on wood board, 23 x 23 inches, 2011
Takeo Chikatsu (b. 1963) worked for several design studios before becoming a freelance illustrator and designer in 1998. He is best known for his hyperrealistic acrylic paintings of familiar objects, such as bottles, food, flowers, and pencils, in which he explores time, surface, and what lies beneath. In 2006, he began his Shoes series—portraits of single shoes belonging to people in his life. Each shoe hints at the character of its wearer, such as “Father’s Geta Sandal,” “Tired President of Design Studio,” and “Chen”—a very shy and quiet Chinese foreign student who traveled to France to study with her adoring boyfriend.
Acrylic on paper, 21 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches, 2021
oki-chu. (b. 1979) works in an art style known as automatism, in which the subconscious guides the artist’s creative process. He begins in pencil, letting himself draw lines without thinking, and then finds forms and motifs in the work that he brings out in pen. In college, he encountered French comics and the work of Dutch artist M. C. Escher, yet his primary influences are the manga, anime, and video games of his youth and the artists with whom he engages at mograg gallery, the Tokyo art space that he runs with his wife, Motoko Ohta.
Acrylic on canvas, 21 x 18 inches, 2021
Tokyo-based artist Mariko Enomoto (b. 1982) studied fashion, and today designs magazine and record covers and other commercial products. As a painter, she is self-taught, influenced by her great-grandfather, who was a Nihonga, or “traditional Japanese-style,” artist. Growing up surrounded by art and nature has informed her own painting style, and many of her figures interweave human and natural elements, such as animals and plants. Here, blue orchids grow over the eyes of a young woman, while a bee emerges from her mouth, an image that is at once elegant and surreal.
Main Exhibition Page