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First solo exhibition by Japanese artist Kaoruko opens at the Mike Weiss Gallery
KAORUKO, Aroma Exersize, 2010, 85 x 122 inches, Acrylic, screen printing and sumi on canvas. Photo: Courtesy Mike Weiss Gallery.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- Mike Weiss Gallery presents its first solo exhibition by Japanese artist KAORUKO. Aromako, a play on words combining the artist’s name and visual theme of the work, explores the complexity of the modern Japanese woman in terms of her relationship with herself and tradition. Using acrylic paint, traditional sumi calligraphy techniques and silk screened kimono patterns, KAORUKO creates large-scale paintings which depict women in their private domestic spaces.

Drawing upon both the rich cultural history of her homeland as well as her experiences as a former Japanese pop star, KAORUKO’s female figures are set against highly codified motifs sourced from traditional woodblock prints and Japanese textiles. The luscious hues, and flattened planes of KAORUKO’s paintings are frequently inspired by the Ukiyo-e ‘floating world’ prints of the Edo period, and her inclusion of wave and ocean designs, which denote ‘happiness’ and ‘mystery’, speak to her overarching themes of transcendence and universal love.

While KAORUKO’s women are presented in various stages of undress, the artist insists this is not an eroticized state but rather a rare, intimate glimpse into their private lives and the friendship between them. In this series, the women inhale one another’s bodily odors, a gesture of familiarity that is a decidedly feminist stance against the significance placed by Japanese culture on pristine modesty. The very acknowledgment of these odors goes against the idealized fantasy of the yamato nadeshiko (a literal translation of this is ‘Japanese dianthus flowers’ meaning ‘women with traditional Japanese beauty’) and the social construct of kawaii, which values the feminine in terms of ‘adorability’ and ‘cuteness.’ In revealing their skin, as well as the truth about their bodies that lie concealed behind a mask of yamato nadeshiko perfection, KAORUKO illustrates the dichotomy of the contemporary Japanese women. This woman has cleverly learned to balance traditional expectations— signified by the inclusion of time-honored motifs—with her modern lifestyle.

Born in Nagoya, Japan, KAORUKO is a self-taught artist who is now living and working in New York City.

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