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Yoshitomo Nara + graf Present A to Z Project Installation at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Yoshitomo Nara + graf, A to Z Project. Photo: Hako Hosokawa. Courtesy of Galerie Zink Muenchen/Berlin

GATESHEAD.- For the first time in a UK public gallery Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara and creative design team graf present the latest installation in the ongoing A to Z Project at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. The exhibition can be seen from Saturday 14 June to Sunday 26 October 2008.

Yoshitomo Nara’s work embodies a defiant spirit that comes with youthful optimism and belief that we can change the world. He is best known for his deceptively simple drawings, paintings and sculptures of children with apparently innocent, kawaii or cute expressions. Kristin Chambers explains further in Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Changes ‘Their direct gazes and impish grins suggest that although they’re young and darling, these kids sense what the world has in store for them’. Influenced by popular culture from punk music, rock ‘n’ roll and Manga to the American cartoons of his childhood, Nara explores the tensions of a hyper consumer culture.

At BALTIC, Nara continues his ongoing collaboration with creative design unit graf: the A-Z Project which began in 2003. The project explores the relationship between the individual, the space they inhabit and objects within their surroundings. It aims to revive the idea of narrative, the relationship between the work and its environment, art and life. For each phase of the project, the team create a new wooden structure or ‘house’ that responds to the particular environment of the exhibition space. Ultimately the project will accumulate more than 26 houses over the course of 26 exhibitions. Together the houses create an imaginary town with each street named after a letter ‘A’ to ‘Z’.

For the next stage of their project, Nara and graf will construct three cross-shaped ‘houses’ at BALTIC. Two of these are reconstructions from earlier stages; the third house is specially designed for the exhibition and built using local reclaimed materials.

Nara + graf’s recent exhibitions include Torre de Malaga, Malaga, GEM Hague, Galerie Zink Berlin, A to Z Hiosaki, Welcome to Soi Sabai Bangkok, Stephen Friedman Gallery London, Yokohama Triennale 2005 and Home graf media gm, Osaka.

In 2007, in celebration of the gallery’s 5th birthday and the opening of a new £500,000 learning facility BALTIC commissioned Nara to produce a new series of site specific large scaled drawings in vinyl which have been on show to the public since July 2007.

Yoshitomo Nara currently lives and works in Japan, and exhibits worldwide.

Having received his B.F.A. (1985) and an M.F.A. (1987) from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, Nara studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, in Dusseldorf, Germany from 1988 to 1993.

Nara started exhibiting in Japan in 1984, and in 1989 began to exhibit internationally. He has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984 and is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Tomio Koyama Gallery, Toyko; Galerie Michael Zink, Berlin; Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.

In the UK Nara has exhibited in Jam: Tokyo London, 2001 Barbican Centre, London; The Galleries Show 2003, Royal Academy of Arts, London and at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London in 2000, 2003 and 2006.

Yoshitomo Nara + graf is a collaborative project between the artist and graf, the international design company founded in Osaka. The A-Z Project started in 2003 when Nara met Hideki Toyoshima, an artist and one of the founders of graf. To date they have collaborated on projects in Japan, Spain, UK, Holland and Korea.

The exhibition at BALTIC in June 2008 will be the first show at a major UK public gallery for Nara + graf.

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