Tomokazu Matsuyama's first solo exhibition in Mainland China, Accountable Nature, opened at The Long Museum West Bund
on November 12, 2020, and will run until January 24, 2021. This exhibition introduces Matsuyama's fundamental notions, which capture the status quo of present-day life and culture in an unembellished manner. The works in the exhibition feature Matsuyamas extensive range of aesthetic language, from his iconic shaped canvases to sculptures.
Growing up in a bicultural environment in Japan and the United States, Matsuyama physically represents the urban one-world blend of cultures. Joyfully colored canvases, which blend a traditional Japanese color palette with eye-catching fluorescents, render a diverse and ambiguous modern culture, where he splices edited images from broad aesthetic encounters. Matsuyama treats all elements equally, working with a flood of images from East and West, ranging from classical paintings and antique patterns to magazine pin-ups and Internet ads. The process of dismantling and meticulously reconstructing vast amounts of information from across space and time results in objects and patterns that would not ordinarily coexist sharing space. At the same time, compositions that lack nothing and contain nothing extra maintain an exquisite balance. Matsuyamas visual language is inherent with an editorial process in which mashups and samplings from familiar elements spark viewers to make their own connections, leading to new ideas and narratives. By causing different elements to coexist on a flat surface, Matsuyama challenges contemporary art paradigms and offers each viewer space for new concepts and notions.
Matsuyamas challenge to paradigms in art is also apparent in his abstraction series. He takes the motif of a paper crane, a representation of gankake (the Japanese custom of praying to a god) and symbolically inserts that icon into his abstractions. By incorporating the idea of superstition into art, a practice that is prominent in Eastern art but excluded in Western modern art, Matsuyama dismantles the system of abstraction, an art form contextualized by Western authority, in an attempt to deconstruct and reconstruct the very notion of art history itself.
The exhibition title, Accountable Nature, derives from the technical term force majeure, which references natural disasters and unexpected events that are a detriment to the functioning of society and the economy. Usually, when a stable relationship is established between nature and humans, people can enjoy the blessings of nature. However, the occasional rage of nature shakes up this interconnection, causing people to become helpless and even surrender. No one is accountable for any damages caused by the force of nature; even if people would feel unjust. Despite living in times of uncertainty, what Matsuyama has seen in the present is the power of the people continuing to live day by day, maintaining hope for the future and reconstructing their lives. The 7-meter sculpture Nirvana Tropicana embodies that abstract atmosphere in society, and serves as a symbol within this exhibition. Matsuyama states that it is the crucial role of the artist to capture and express the times in which we live. The notion of finding reality in digital experience, such as people learning about real events happening right outside their windows through digital devices, is one example of boundaries becoming ambiguous. Matsuyamas canvases reflect unstable binaries representing our era, such as the natural and digital, real and unreal. The canvases possess a nomadic and utopian characteristic as the result of his unique image editing approach.
While society is beginning to adapt to a new normal way of living, Matsuyamas work poses the question of whether a reality in which people find their identity is genuine, and what a reality is in the first place.
Tomokazu Matsuyama was born in 1976 in Japan. Currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received his bachelor's degree of Economics from Sophia University in Japan and an MFA in Communications Design from Pratt Institute in the United States.
His family relocated to California in the 80s, jumpstarting Matsuyamas multi-cultural life. This global experience is an integral part of his work, which presents both the classical and the new, the ornamental and the conceptual. Familiar imageries are deconstructed and reconstructed while each work always serves as a testament to the effects of globalization. In this way, Matsuyama is constantly grappling with the meaning of reality and cultural identity.
Matsuyamas works have appeared in exhibitions and collections worldwide. Recently, his works have been on view at the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. His public installations include murals and sculptures that can be seen in Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Hong Kong.
Matsuyamas works are collected by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Royal Family, The Prince of Dubai United Arab Emirates, The Royal Family, The Queen of Dubai United Arab Emirates and other institutions.