Now into its last month, continuing until 29 February, The Bootleg Drawings 1988 – 2023 traces more than three decades of the career of Yoshitomo Nara, a pioneering figure in contemporary art whose signature style celebrates the introspective freedom of the imagination and the individual.
On show at international art gallery Pace, Geneva, the exhibition marks the Japanese artist’s first-ever solo exhibition in Switzerland, and brings together nearly 200 works on paper informed by politics, punk rock, folk music, and 1960s counterculture along, with the artist’s own memories and childhood experiences, as well as his years spent living in Germany.
“Even if I knew there would be no one out there to look at my work, I would still make the exact same thing,” explains the artist, whose work has adorned sleeves of musicians including R.E.M. and Shonen Knife. Offering the viewer a selection of never-before seen works — each one embracing a somewhat raw and unfiltered sensibility that sheds light on the artist’s aesthetic interests — The Bootleg Drawings 1988 – 2023 presents a holistic, deeply personal picture of his career through the lens of a singular medium.
The earliest drawings in the exhibition date back to 1988, the year he moved to Germany to attend the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Studying under the artist A.R. Penck, Nara was encouraged to combine his drawing and painting practices; a critical moment in the development of his signature style. A nod to Penck comes in the form of Nara’s bold figurations from 1989 in all of their violent rawness.
From doodling as a child to buying his first album at eight, something that provided a young Yoshitomo Nara with great inspiration and which still influences his work today, Nara’s expansive practice now encompasses painting, photography, large-scale installation, and sculpture, but it’s drawing through which he expresses his humour and introspective sensibilities most vividly. A personal act of refinement and experimentation, these drawings are eclectically hung throughout the Geneva gallery.
Yoshitomo Nara: The Bootleg Drawings 1988 – 2023 remains on view until 29 February at Pace, Geneva.