Nara's drawing, paintings and sculptures of mysterious children and animals act like decoys. They lure the viewer towards them with their cartoon-like familiarity and sweetness, only to reveal the grown-up fears and anxieties of living in the contemporary world.
Nara's work presents another side of childhood and points to the inner darkness of the contemporary human condition. The menacing eyes of his children, staring out from chubby faces, shatter the illusion of childhood innocence. The expressions on their young faces suggest fear as well as rebellion or aggression against the adult dream world in which they are caught.
The visual vocabulary of Japanese manga and anime (cartoons and animations) and Nara's own childhood experiences have moulded his wide-eyed, small-featured children and animal figures. Nara relies on traditional ‘high art' means to present these generic characters. The textured surface of his work undermines the slickness and finish associated with Japanese popular design; but the work still retains the communicative appeal and visual seduction of manga.
This is the artist's first solo-exhibition in Britain. Nara is currently exhibiting at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, California. In 1999, Nara showed his work at the Institut für Moderne Kunst, Nürnberg and the Ginza Art Space, Tokyo.
Stephen Friedman Gallery will be participating at the art fair in Basel, hall 2.1 booth D12 and at Art Unlimited with a project by Kendell Geers.