Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Art Space Talk: Jave Gakumei Yoshimoto

The first myartspace.com blog interview has been conducted. I interviewed Jave Gakumei Yoshimoto by sending him various questions about his background, style, and medium. I find Mr.Yoshimoto to be an artist of considerable talent.

What I find most interesting about his work is the fact that he uses common objects as his 'canvas'. Jave Gakumei has created images on hats, mirrors, benches, bottles, surf boards, guitars, desk tops... you name it and Jave Gakumei has probably used it. This makes his work very accessible to the public since they are painted on every-day objects. However, these works also take on a deeper meaning in that they ask questions about society (as you will discover when you read his own words.).

Mr. Yoshimoto's art does not stop with painting. He has also created what he calls 'Cheese and Cracker Books'. Mr.Yoshimoto's 'Cheese and Cracker Books' are an interesting blend of text and... well... cheese. I found this use of two common items to be humorous. They reminded me that art can be fun. However, there is also a cutting sarcasm to these works.

After the humor of the pieces left me I started to observe the deeper meaning of what the combined items might suggest. As I observed the 'Cheese and Cracker Books' I asked myself, "Just how important are common objects in my life?". When we look at a piece of cheese we don't see anything aside from a piece of cheese. The same thought goes for a book or binder. We only see them as they are. When the two are combined they come off looking rather silly... which made me question just how important all of the items we use in a day are. It reminded me that we can all be a bit superficial even when it comes to the most simple items.

I think Mr. Yoshimoto best sums up his life, art, and career ambitions in his own words. The following is his response to a series of question I sent him via email.(Do a search for Jave Gakumei Yoshimoto or simply Yoshimoto on myartspace.com to observe his galleries. Enjoy.)

"I was originally born in Tokyo, Japan to a single mother. I immigrated to the states at the age of 9 and I have been residing mostly in California until my recent move to Chicago for graduate school. As with most children, I began drawing for the sake of having fun, but I've always known that I wanted to be an artist one way or another.

Art unconsciously have become my way of sublimation. As with most adolescents, I was going through a struggling phase, and I've had numerous family issues with my mother.. My mother whom I later found out to be schizophrenic suffered from auditory and visual hallucinations, and she has had major issues with anger. I've been a victim of domestic violence by her, and I finally left home at the age of 17. This forced me to drop out of high school, and I've lived in large wooden crates behind an elementary school during the winter nights of San Francisco.

Fortunately my homeless stint was rather short. I was on the streets for about 3 weeks until my grandfather took me in under his wings. I eventually returned to a secondary high school doing independent studies to get my high school degree. At this point, my work found a direction- I was rather curious about collages and subliminal messages. Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali along with M.C. Escher were my very first artistic influences.

At that time I did not have any formal artistic education and would have been categorized as "outsider artist".

Old habits die hard. I still had internal issues with my emotions and I needed to satisfy my internal cry. One way of doing that was to break the law for my personal thrill. The initial fear prior to doing the act, and the thrill of success was something I truly thrived on. However, I did not wise up in time, and found myself behind bars before long. Ironically, the warrant for my arrest came out on my 22nd birthday- almost exactly ten years ago.

I was released and worked dead end jobs. After years of working in this hopeless state, I finally decided that I needed to get my act together, so I returned to school. I started to take some art classes at local community college and began incorporating texts into images. "Eyescape Miscegenation" in particular is composed of hundreds of words expressing my frustration towards art academia, and how I identified myself as an artist.

When I received my associates, I joined the U.S. Army reserves. There was one particular M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) which is the military job that caught my eye. It was a job entitled "Multimedia Illustrator", and I signed up without hesitation. During my basic training (boot camp), 9/11 had happened. It was quite an eye opening and shocking experience. In my advanced individual training, I worked hard to be the best artist in the class. We worked with traditional media such as graphite, pastel, watercolor, and worked in digital media such as photoshop, illustrator, pagemaker, powerpoint, and dreamweaver. I was paid by the army to learn this so I couldn't have been more excited. I graduated in early 2002 with Distinguished honors, and received Honorable mention award in the 2002 Military Graphics competition for my work "razorburn".

Next came the conceptual phase of my artistic development. I went to my undergraduate studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, and showed my work proudly and eagerly. I was told my work was crap, and that I made works that were shallow and I objectified women. I had to abandon my old "style" and was searching for my new niche. It came in the form of an internet conversation.

Over the course of time, I befriended an anonymous acquaintance simply known as "Sarah" over AOL instant messenger. She apparently was well funded, and graciously gave me a grant of $100 for an idea I had. My idea was that I wanted to paint a portrait of a musician on a guitar, and the money funded that project fully. What came later was years of painting on non traditional surfaces and found objects. I began to think about what image or narrative would succeed on each of the surface that I painted on. Such as the symbolism behind a bench. Does it merely seat the people at parks and those waiting for the bus? Or does it serve as a bed for those who have no homes? What are the major attitude towards homelessness? My work "Averted eyes" served as a commentary of the public about how we avoid and ignore the homeless citizens. I began to take interest in these social issues and current events, and incorporated them into my artwork.

My then professor Jane Callister was my largent influence and mentor. She noticed of my interest in social issues, and caring for the members in the community. Since I founded a local gallery for students and served as a curator, she suggested that I try applying to art therapy for graduate studies. Which led me to my current residence here in Chicago, Illinois.

Art therapy is a field generally misunderstood. However, I was excited to learn a whole new aspect of art and the purpose it served. All the years leading up to where I am now, I've felt that the art world consisted of individuals who are extremely opinionated and sometimes give inconsiderate and even harmful remarks towards growing artists. With curators, collectors, dealers, and critics all saying what works and what sells, how is an artist supposed to truly nurture their own artist's identity, intuition and creativity? Can an artist exist in this world without being bogged down by these other individuals?

My current studies have provided that insight and I found myself working with schizophrenic adults and adolescents who needs the space, attention and witness to nurture their creativity. The concept of creating safe space, providing encouragement, without the punishment of critique or judgment allow these individuals as well as myself, to grow. While my artist's identity have been currently put aside for these individuals, the lesson I've learned has been invaluable. My studies have also allowed me to make peace with my mother before her passing this year.

My artmaking have currently evolved to a more of a humours and sarcastic series of work. Sometimes I just need to amuse myself and laugh at life. My "3 foot bacon" and "cheese and cracker book" are perfect testimonies to that.

I currently plan on applying to MFA programs for next fall. I should by then have received my Masters in Art Therapy from here at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. I'm interested in going somewhere with a University setting rather than an art institution simply because I believe there would be more resources I can access. I would like to work with musicians and scientists to test my theory about translating verbal tone into musical harmony that will then be converted into color. With such process, I am hoping that I will be able to truly share an experience and understanding into a person's mind.

Lastly, I find that the art world is focused strongly on the conceptual world. I believe the heiarchy of the "high art" and the critics would eventually collapse, giving way to a new art movement. The "stuckists" that started in England seems to be the closest thing to that, focusing back into figurative paintings. I hope that whatever happens, great conceptual ideas will remain with aesthetically successful works (whether it be ridiculously ugly or beautiful, a successful peace should garner strong reactions).

My friend once said "art making is an egocentric act." I want to prove him wrong. I'm out to prove that art is a hammer that shapes society and not merely a personal mirror that reflects it" - Jave Gakumei Yoshimoto

Feel free to critique or discuss Mr. Yoshimoto's art. Thanks for reading.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...

if you go on http://www.myartspace.com
Bring up galleries and type in "Yoshimoto" and press FIND you will see all of his galleries.

Anonymous said...

i'm interested in the art is an egocentric act and the response to it. i think perhaps contemporary society has changed to the point where it makes art an egocentric act (although i suppose an argument could be made that it always has been because although say, renaissance masters were creating paintings for others, there was significant competition and jealousy among them - at any rate). Being an artist in today's society is not exactly a rewarding job, generally no one knows who you are or what you do and no one (well, general society anyway) really cares. So, one must create his or her artwork for himself, which intrinsically makes that work egocentric. Yoshimoto creates for himself, but uses what he creates as his hammer to shape society. I admire that goal. Art should have a greater purpose.