P.S. to Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter Part Two:
That is not to say that an artist isn’t confident of one’s value.
If you aren’t sure you’re worth godzillions of dollars, then you can’t be an artist.
You would need to believe that to go on.
Yokoo tweets you just do what you do and then someone comes around who thinks it’s great and pays for it.
He started out as a commercial artist and was extremely successful.
And then, in the 1990s he turned his back on all that suddenly and decided to become just an artist.
That’s partly why his Twitter pronouncements about getting paid for art hold special meaning.
P.S. to Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter Part Two:
Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter drops names and makes you hungry.
He says Yoko Ohno came by and had sirloin “tonkatsu” in the middle of the day because she is a sizzling greasy hot person, and he himself was a bit worried about heartburn.
He also says Yukio Mishima ate steak at least once a week because he believed that art is about the body, not just the mind, and forgetting the body in art makes you a big-headed wimp.
Tadanori Yokoo on Twitter says, if you are doing what you truly believe in, what other people say (“hyoka” or social evaluation/assessment) doesn’t matter.
No one really does art to get something back in return.
No one really knows if art is valid or not.
Evaluation/assessment is something that is determined by a commercial market, job contract or social hierarchy.
That’s when evaluation/assessment becomes relevant _ and it must be fair and accurate or else someone is getting exploited, which goes contrary to what art is about from the get-go.
But it is important to remember that something monetary, contractual and social is involved in those endeavors in which evaluation/assessment takes meaning.
But art is not a job and has nothing to do with all that.
That is the privilege of art and also the painful difficulties of art.
Art by definition means you will never be properly evaluated.
No one will come pat you on the back and say: hey, your art is great.
Unless it is an evaluation/assessment that makes art commercial, a job or a reflection of social ranking, which isn’t really about art at all but something just maybe related to art only in the sense that artists are human and need to eat and pay rent.
That is why doing any commercial marketing activity for your art is a big pain because you have to do it even though it isn’t relevant or really meaningful.
At least, even if everyone ignores you and your art, you know you don’t care.
The way Tadanori Yokoo uses Twitter gives the technology a new dimension. He tweets the way he draws. It’s an approach to life/death and meaning/meaninglessneess and the gaps/spaces in-between. He throws his words out as they cross his mind, reaching out to the other reality that is the shadow of death and the faraway universe inhabited by aliens calling out to us in beeps and brush strokes and gasps of a deranged poet. They come and go, lost into cyberspace, our blood, our flashes, our yearnings, our art. They are maybe ignored, cast away, or found and even treasured before being forgotten like grandmothers and mothers and aborted daughters, and they cross like sparkling crystal of stars through the black universe, hurling into consciousness and lives and thoughts and desperate clawing at art by lonely artists and careless carefree tweets.
Dreams blend with reality like time warps in a collage of bathers, samurai, phallic symbols, milk-spurting breasts, waterfalls, ukiyoe prints and half-born babies in a voluminous retrospective of Tadanori Yokoo’s prolific career at Setagaya Museum.
Images jump from postwar Japan(schoolchildren, Mishima) to Hollywood (kissing blondes), then India and other faraway places as quickly and as unexpectedly as the workings of a genius artist’s mind.
In the same way, mediums keep shifting _ pasted photos, oils, silkscreen, Plexiglas.
The usual demarcations of history, geography, references and dimension are no longer relevant.
Even canvases get shredded.
Themes are repeated, over and over, as colors change from ocean-blue to reproductive red on towering canvases.
We enter Yokoo’s mind, stepping into a world of magic and mystery that is probably where we end up when we die and also where we were small and unknowing before we were born _ the primordial that lurks like a hallucinatory flash behind a mirror, or behind our own image in the mirror, hiding behind our backs, or caught around a corner or beneath the water’s surface or embedded inside a hidden wall:
Michelangelo is /blue dolphins jumping are /a couple dancing inside a skull is /a portrait of Pablo Picasso is /crossroads in the darkness getting shot by a film crew are /faces wearing sunglasses are /a photo of a cat’s face /is a screaming salivating woman who is posing at the same spot Mona Lisa was painted.
Things crumble like sand.
And that face or that thing from another century pops up in our consciousness as it always belonged there, as reminders of our finite lives and our connection to the eternal.
Almost 70, Yokoo is voraciously young, curious and evolving like a child.
He stands quiet, ever charming in a tux, his signature curly head held high, as he greets guests at the museum reception, surrounded by chattering dignitaries/celebrities.
What is refreshing is that he thinks big _ real big, on the scale of the Pyramids, grandeur of the galaxies, the insight of a divinity.
That same “bigness” is present in his physically small works, down to the tiniest pencil sketches.
Yokoo is big.
Yokoo is not timid.
And Yokoo is persistent.
One moment, you see a work from the 1960s, a fluorescent depiction of a woman in bondage, and you think: He is at his prime; he can’t possibly top this.
But then there’s another, and yet another, and yes, another, from the 1990s, maybe just this year, all equally strong and different, yet retaining the voice that is so defiantly Yokoo.
I interviewed Yokoo when I was a reporter at The Japan Times.
I went to his studio filled with knickknacks from all over the world _ figures and artifacts.
What’s this? What’s that?
Everything looked like art in his studio. I was probably picking up ashtrays with wonderment.
Why do you keep asking what is this? what is this? he said with a smile.
Yokoo later told me he enjoyed my articles.
You don’t know anything about art, he said, but you write what you feel, and that’s what I want my works to evoke in people.
It’s a nice thing to say to a writer.
As I leave the museum, I return to the world, suddenly equipped with a new eye.
Everything looks different as though the objects are part of Yokoo’s paintings, just making cameo appearances in the landscape before me, to remind me that everything is as much salvation as it is illusion.