Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959)
Lone Star
initialed and dated 'Y N 2011' (on the reverse)
acrylic on two attached panels
56 7/8 x 51¼ in. (144.4 x 130.1 cm.)
Painted in 2011.
Courtesy of the artist and Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo

Lot Essay

Yoshitomo Nara uses his signature child-like dolls and animals, the isolated inhabitants of a cartoonish other world, to create a psychological universe of shared experience. Like many of his Japanese peers, Nara takes the stuff of childhood and Japanese animation as his points of departure. His painterly style shares the flat, pared-down simplicity of the animated line, and his compositions most often revolve around a solitary wide-eyed little girl.

Nara has often discussed his own isolation and alienation as a child and adolescent:
"I was born in 1959; it was a time of economic development in Japan. Most parents must work for their children or themselves or family. There were many latch-key children. I was one of them I lived in the countryside in Japan There were no children my age. I was alone. But I could play with cat and dog." (Y. Nara in E. Nakamura, "Punk Art," Giant Robot, no. 20 (Spring, 2001), p. 26.) Lone Star distills this quality of anomie.

Drawn with free-hand lines and soft washes of color, Lone Star offers a classic example of Nara's iconic imagery: an enigmatic child bows her head, her eyes closed, holding an empty sheet of white paper, while overhead a shooting star passes unacknowledged. The composition is heavy with alienation and loneliness-the blank sheet gives no hint to its significance, the child's face is devoid of emotion, and the shooting star offers no contextual clues. Even the title reinforces the sense of desolation, underscoring the emotionally hermetic quality of Nara's work.

For Nara, the hermetic imagery and lack of expressive detail is a pointed strategy. By stripping his compositions to such a minimal and abstract degree, he communicates an expression of childhood that is readily legible and free from culturally specific readings. The artist has said that he is searching for "real reality: the first experience of heat, the first experience of sweetness, the first experience of sadness, and the first experience of being bullied or bullying. I'm not particularly interested in expressing a message to others." (Y. Nara, in M. Tezuka, "Music on My Mind," Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool (New York: Asia Society, 2010), p. 95.) It is an archeology of authenticity, an antediluvian excavation of the feelings of childhood, before the learned censorship of adulthood.

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