Hiroshi Sugimoto’s beautiful glass-ified shrine in Naoshima


In 2002, Hiroshi Sugimoto decorated Go’o Shrine on Naoshima with an optical glass staircase that leads to a subterranean stone chamber. It’s now a permanent part of the Art House Project, an amazing art project on Naoshima that walks you through a small traditional Japanese village with several obscure buildings that have stunning contemporary experiential art pieces hidden in them. The most dramatic one was James Turrell’s Minamidera — a spiritual worship place transformed into a seemingly pitch black room that slowly over time metamorphoses into one of his signature empty rectangular box meditative spaces.

Go’o Shrine for Art House Project

Gakko Project, a super artsy inspirational summer camp on Naoshima

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I’m on Naoshima, an awesome little island off the coast of Kagawa Prefecture best known for its amazing collection of modern art (including, famously a giant yellow polka dotted pumpkin right on the seashore created by Yayoi Kusama). For six days, Kenta Koga, a 21-year old Yale undergrad has transformed the conference room at a local hotel into a six-day summer camp for 30 high school students and 15 Yale, Harvard and Tufts undergrads. It’s called Gakko Project. The tag line is “Question Learning” and from what I can gather from my first hour here, it’s an attempt to take people who normally learn in pedantic academic settings and put them in this amazing concrete modern art building on a gorgeous beach with art everywhere with inspirational thought leaders so that they absorb inspiration in different ways.

In a couple hours, my friend Chiaki Hayashi and I are teaching a course on how to create きっかけ. It will involve brainstorming, conversing with strangers, and running on a beach. Super fun! Tomorrow we’ll be joined by our friend Fumio Nanjo, the director of the Mori Art Museum, who actually curated most of the art on Naoshima. We plan to have a blast, swim in the ocean, and fully support Kenta’s ambitious and super inspirational initiative.

Photo: Florian Koenigsberger

Pyschedelic pop art by 76-year old former Playboy art director


Keiichi Tanaami’s colorful depictions of psychedelic Astro Boy and evil POpEye are fun, but much more meaningful when you understand that he’s a 76 year old active artist who was the first art director of Playboy Magazine four decades ago.

Johnny Strategy over at Spoon and Tamago says:

To understand his art one simply needs a brief history lesson into the artist himself. Highlights include experiencing the Great Tokyo Air Raid at age 9, experimenting with LSD in his 20s, travelling to New York and meeting Andy Warhol at age 31, and becoming the first art director of Playboy Magazine (Japan) at age 39.

Check out his latest exhibit, which is on display in Shibuya through August 5th.

via Spoon and Tamago

Maywa Denki debuts the Otamatone Deluxe at SXSW

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I just got back from a fabulous two-day trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW with Novmichi Tosa of Maywa Denki. Tomo + I went took him there as part of the IEEE contingency. He gave an amazing performance and debuted the Otamatone Deluxe, which goes on sale next month. (You can buy the normal-sized Otamatone on Amazon.) I’ve known him for years, but this was the first time I got to see him perform live. So great!

Amazing video interview here

Artist Riusuke Fukahori’s amazing goldfish art

This is a beautiful video that shows the artistic process of Riusuke Fukahori, who just showed a selection of amazing multi-dimensional goldfish art at a gallery in London. Apparently he was inspired by his pet goldfish to do both the giant painting drawn finished with a broom and the 3D-looking acrylic on clear resin series.

Yayoi Kusama’s latest: obliteration room


Artist Yayoi Kusama does it again — this time with the help of Australian children! As part of her latest exhibition Look Now, See Forever — on view at the Queensland Art Gallery through March 11 — she prepared a stark white room and then gave visiting kids thousands of colorful dots that they were then allowed to put wherever they wanted. So cool!

via Spoon and Tamago

More Yayoi Kusama links on TokyoMango

Illustrator Yuko Shimizu’s new book = perfect for your artsy coffee table

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Yuko Shimizu is a super-talented illustrator who lives in NYC. Her self-titled monograph came out about a month ago, and is full of provocative surrealistic comic art drawn first with traditional calligraphy brushes, overlaid with digital color and background to look like graphic prints. Super cool. I first met Yuko when I was working on the Studio360 piece about women artists in Japan. She told me that she had always drawn erotic women, but didn’t realize she was a feminist until she came to the US for art school and her teachers asked her to analyze her own art for the first time. (The Western tendency to analyze is different from Japan, where it’s more common to simply appreciate the aesthetic value of a piece.)

Get it here!

Hitotzuki is a husband-and-wife artist team that draws giant wall murals

Hitotzuki is a cool husband and wife artist team. The wife, Sasu, explains the process: they both stare at the wall until she starts to feel inspired about where to put her symbol. (The symbol looks like a mandala, but she claims she was not interested in Buddhism and mandalas until she started drawing concentric leaves because she didn’t know what else to draw.)

I love what she says about how her husband’s waves are the beat, and her symbol is the melody. It’s hard to imagine that these two don’t get along.

(Thanks, Vincent!)

Ryoji Ikeda’s crazy hypnotic Transfinite exhibit in NY

Ryoji Ikeda has a really amazing exhibit at The Armory on Park Avenue in NYC that closes in a week. It’s called The Transfinite, and it’s a giant screen that splays out onto the floor in front of it that shows crazy black and white lines and beeps a lot. If you check out the back side, you can understand what it’s all about–it’s him playing with different combinations of data. Geeky-trippy fun that you can experience in all kinds of ways. Go check it out!

Above, me standing in the middle of the exhibit floor.

More info here.

Iori Tomita’s transparent fluorescent dead fish art


Wired has a fun photo gallery of hypercolored sea creatures by Iori Tomita, a fisherman-turned-artist who uses digestive enzymes and chemicals to manipulate their disintegration process so that it stops right before they start to crumble–for some reason, the fish turn transparent for a fleeting moment at that stage. And then he dyes and preserves them. You can see some of his work at Design Festa next month in Tokyo.


Harakiri Schoolgirls and other awesome art at the Japan Society in NY


If you’re in NYC and hate Hello Kitty but otherwise love Japanese art, you should definitely check out the Japan Society’s current exhibit, called Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art. One of my favorite pieces there was this painting by Makoto Aida, called Harakiri Schoolgirls, showing a bunch of hot teenaged girls in schoolgirl uniforms piled up on top of each other as they commit samurai-style suicide en masse.

Exhibit main page

Japan 2.0, a cool photography project on Kickstarter

A new Kickstarter project called Japan 2.0 will allow San Francisco photographer Stirling Elmendorf to go back to Japan and take awesome photos for a book and exhibit. By helping fund the project, you can win prints or signed copies of the book, with shoutouts throughout.

My photographic inspiration began 10 years ago when I moved to rural Japan, on Shikoku- the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Somehow, Japan changed me and my view of the world forever. I felt a need to distill my feelings and share them in an efficient and translatable format. It’s time to honor that inspiration with a vision unlike anything you’ve seen before…

I’m returning in February to photograph people and places that were so inspiring to me. I’ll create a powerful series of fine art photos that will fuse Japan’s natural beauty, it’s rich and colorful society and it’s textured, man-made structures- both traditional and modern- beautiful and decaying… These photos will be part of the ジャパン2.0 – (JAPAN 2.0) photo book and website. The images will also be part of a photo exhibition in my Japantown neighborhood, here in San Francisco.