Cneai, for his exhibition "Who snatched the babies?"
That show featured his full on take on snarling little girls wielding guns and knives. The Cneai was jam packed with works and each one had, it seemed, taken the artist on some personal trip into anger, frustration, solitude and yet a distinct sense of humor and irony about it all.
The paintings and drawings – some of them whipped out fairly quickly – were all lovingly made.
At the time I was writing a piece on superflat Japanese pop art that included a massive group exhibition by Takashi Murakami at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. [That review exists but is no longer on the net; if you'd like to see it I can e mail you the PDFs. Write: Editor SFW.]
Mr. Nara who then spoke a halting English was very relaxed, hanging out with a bunch of his friends both Japanese and French, adorned in rock star sunglasses and enjoying the quiet reception for his work.
The artist was kind enough to sign a catalog for me, and even added a drawing of one of his signature little snarling girls blasting through space in a Jetson-like vessel. Since then, of course, Yoshitomo Nara's career has defied any notion of gravity. He has skyrocketed into the highest echelons of the art world (and art market) with these extremely simple but wildly sophisticated works. Oddly enough, reaction to Mr. Nara's work is almost always joy and laughter. At least that's from my informal poll.
He is a generous if slightly tortured artist who, as Roberta Smith writing in The New York Times noted, has seamlessly moved from high to low and all the middle genres in art without missing a step.
The artist now takes on New York with “Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool” on view through Jan. 20 at Asia Society Museum, 725 Park Avenue, at 70th Street; (212) 288-6400. Asia Society Website.
See: Roberta Smith's review in NYT (September 9, 2010).