ANOTEN: a Yoshitomo Ano solo exhibit at Ponte M



Last night I took the train to the Higashinari area of Osaka to see ANOTEN, the Yoshitomo Ano (阿野義知) exhibit at Ponte M (match point アテリエ).  match point (マッチポイント) is a company — or collective? — that sells candles and organizes candle-making workshops as part of a larger counter-cultural effort to build community and create a world based around social and aesthetic enjoyment rather than the nine-to-eleven grind of the salaryman.  Ponte M is the kind of casually funky space that immediately feels like a place where people are involved with living and making art, and it’s the kind of place that immediately makes you want to start making art yourself.


The Ano exhibit consisted an effluence of floor-to-ceiling drawings and paintings, plastered everywhere imaginable.  Especially impressive was the display in the rec room, in which it seemed that no bit of wall remained uncovered.  Dominating this room was an image several meters high of a head — facing straight ahead and blacked out as if lit from behind — with a pair of piercing white eyes that stare intensely into wherever it is that you might be looking from.

What I’m calling the rec room was really the record room: two turntables, a stack of records, and a pair of ancient wood-veneered Bose 302 speakers provided the party with enough warm electro-rock sound to keep anyone happy, all night long.  It’s probably no coincidence that Ano is also obviously fascinated by records, with several of his drawings displaying bits of writing that proclaim “We love records!” and “Fuck art.  Let’s dance!”  In fact, one of the items on sale actually was a record featuring a cover drawn by Ano — a 7″ titled NY NY by art rockers MACARTHUR A CONTTI.  Their live video, shot at Unagidani Sunsui, gives a pretty good feel of the kind of positive chaos available on the walls of the Ano exhibit.  It’s an inviting chaos that makes you feel as if you were a bird at home in your perfect nest of weirdness.  Also, you can see some of match point’s candle handiwork in the video.  I don’t know if Ano himself is responsible for any of the artwork in the video, but his aesthetic sense is completely consonant with the anarchic plenitude on display.

A lot of Ano’s work has a purposeful anti-art naivety about it, but also a kind of manic sense of accumulative energy, perhaps a bit like the work of Shinro Ohtake if it were mixed with the pop sensibilities of Joe Brainard.  Like Brainard, Ano seems to delight in hijacking scraps of pop cultural detritus and making them his own, even using a few tiny images from the Nancy comic that Brainard loved so much.  I have a feeling, however, that if Ano were to draw Nancy as a boy, Nancy’s newly discovered male member would be enthusiastically and clownishly erect.

One of the theme’s of Ano’s work that pops up again and again is the awkwardness of erotic desire and the way it plays itself out in a world that wants to deny libido on the level of the individual while filling the air with libidinous pop images intended to help stoke the free-floating desire that is so readily transferred onto the commercial world of consumables.  Ano’s frantic production of naive pop anti-art seems almost like a stark rejection of this dynamic, a kind of aesthetic aikido in which capitalism’s attempts to create a vast well of monetizable desire instead result in a mutant freak show of polymorphous creativity that uses the detritus of commercial culture as its primary ingredient.

One of the delights of having so much art up on the wall is the endless fascination of discovery; there will be something to suit everyone’s bit of strangeness, nostalgia, sense of erotic charge, or glimmer of rock and roll beauty.  One of the most startling moments for me was discovering, just above floor level, a painted copy of Ernst Haas’s famous 1969 photograph of downtown Albuquerque.  The reason this image struck me me so strongly is that it’s almost the exact same view I had when I was a kid driving through town with my great grandmother on our way to Furr’s Cafeteria on Menaul.  Even up until the mid 80s the strip hadn’t really changed that much and the view was still recognizably the same as that in Haas’s photo, which I didn’t discover until years after I had stopped visiting Albuquerque on a regular basis.  When I asked Ano-san where he had discovered the original image that he copied for the painting, he told me that he had found it somewhere in Cambodia on a trip that he took (maybe in a book or on a postcard?).  A completely incongruous set of conjunctions that, in fact, feels like exactly the kind of conjunction that should happen when you drop yourself into the free-flowing stream of pop iconography.

Ano’s connection with music doesn’t stop with MACARTHUR A CONTTI.  He’s also done work for the band Let’s DaDaDa, which shares a member (Abe Saburo) with MACARTHUR A CONTTI.  Let’s DaDaDa is short for “Let’s dance, dance, dance!” and this phrase could be seen inscribed on several of the drawings in the show, and plastered here and there around Ponte M in a general show of solidarity with fun.  Music plays, cartoon images jump around in the head, and everything is all right.

The show runs until the 25th of August.

Let’s dance.


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