Yoskay Yamamoto: Creating Art That Makes You Smile
From his intricate paintings to his playful sculptures of iconic pop characters such as Bart Simpson to his recent mural "Ginga" at the Branded Arts Complex in Culver City, artist Yoskay Yamamoto weaves together his work in various media through a fascinating blend of Eastern and Western culture. Moving from Japan to the West Coast when he was 15, Yamamoto, who is now represented by LeBasse Projects, continues to be influenced by his Japanese heritage, as well as American street culture.
We spoke with Yamamoto about his Japanese and West Coast influences, the importance of humor in art and his artistic goals. (Go to our Facebook page and sign up for our "Collect Art" Giveaway and you may be one of three lucky art lovers to get an "Astro Boy" sculpture by Yamamoto.)
Moving from Japan when you were 15, how did your childhood growing up in Japan influence your artwork today?
Yoskay Yamamoto: When I was younger my favorite pastime was reading manga comics, so as a kid I drew a lot of manga characters that I liked at the time. I think that's how I developed my foundation of drawing, which you can still see seeping through my work.
Your work balances aspects of traditional Japanese culture and Western culture. Moving to the U.S. when you were 15, how did you view American culture?
When I moved to the states at the age of 15, there were so many new cultures and customs that it blew my mind. Skateboarding, graffiti art, punk rock, hip-hop and recreational drug culture amazed me. They were something that I never encountered in the small town that I grew up in.
What inspires you about pop cultural figures such as Hello Kitty and Bart Simpson that you use in your sculptures?
I like applying the iconic childhood characters in my work because everyone has a certain attachment with them in a personal way. The strangeness I get from adding my own twists to them really gives me a great kick.
Using these cartoon characters and creating small sculptures that could resemble toys, much of your work deals with childhood. What is the role of childhood in your work?
To me they are not necessarily about my childhood. I enjoy alternating the appearance of iconic characters and giving them a slightly different look. To me, the oddness of them is what excites me.
One aspect of your work that I particularly love is its sense of humor. Do you feel that humor is important in art?
Humor is a pretty new subject in my art work. Recently, I have really enjoyed work that makes me smile or that puts me in a good mood. I don't think every art piece has to be a serious or emotional work. At this moment in my career, I think it is important for me to not take myself too seriously. I don't know why but that's how I feel at the moment.
You create in many mediums from painting on canvas to sculpture to Ginga, your mural in Culver City. Which medium do you prefer?
Every project gives me a satisfaction and troubles in their unique way. Each medium is challenging to me, but I feel most comfortable with sculptural work at the moment.
Your work succeeds in having a wide appeal to many types of people from children to art historians to gallerists. What are your artistic goals?
As an artist there are a lot of projects that I like to take on to challenge myself. Recently I have done a few large scale installations in galleries and I would like to take similar work into public spaces.
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