Nanae Mitobe “I am a yellow”

November 23 - December 22, 2019

Maki Fine Arts is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Nanae Mitobe entitled I am a yellow starting Saturday, November 23, 2019.

I’m Yellow and White — and a Bit Blue*

Kazuho Soeda (curator, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art)

You may be familiar with the long-time bestselling children’s book called “little blue and little yellow,” written and illustrated by Italian author Leo Lionni. When two anthropomorphized circles, one blue and one yellow, embrace each other and turn green, those around them start treating them like strangers. The story brilliantly illustrates how colored surfaces–wafer thin and cellophane like–gently saturate each other after overlapping, so softly that it is hard to distinguish which color is on top of the other.

When Nanae Mitobe told me the title for her solo show I am a yellow, I immediately thought of “little blue and little yellow,” even though, in some aspects, Lionni’s use of paint is the complete opposite of Mitobe’s method of paint application. Setting aside what the author’s intentions were, Lionni’s story can be interpreted as a simple explanation of how subtractive color mixing works, but it could also be read as a story about discrimination based on skin color. In the late 1800s, a pseudoscience race concept called physiognomy emerged in an attempt to substantiate the observations made during overseas travelling which was becoming widely available even for the middle class. This concept claimed a person’s character or personality could be interpreted through their facial characteristics. In particular, much importance was placed on the shape of the ridgeline–the line extending from forehead to upper lip–when looking at a person’s profile. In most portraits, the model is looking toward the artist, i.e. the viewer, thus the model’s profile is usually not visible. Mitobe’s portraits, in contrast, are not so. In her portraits, the unblemished “ideal” faces of American pop stars and celebrities are replaced by sculls made of pliable paint and skin painted in vivid colors. Eventually, the ridgelines of their profiles disappear under the waves of paint.

* The title for this review was adopted from the book title translation of Mikako Brady’s Japanese-language book “I’m Yellow and White — and a Bit Blue” (published by Shinchosha, 2019 / English subtitle “The Real British Secondary School Days”)

Nanae Mitobe

Born in Kanagawa, Japan, Mitobe graduated from Nagoya Zokei University of Art & Design in 2011 with a BA in Oil Painting. She currently works from Chiba, Japan. Recent shows include Takahashi Collection | Art’s Home (2019, Tsuruoka Art Forum), Takahashi Collection ─ Face and Abstraction (2018, Kiyoharu Art Colony), ABraCaDabra (2017, Ichihara Lakeside Museum), solo exhibition APMoA project, ARCH vol.18: DEPTH – Dynamite Pigment (2016, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art), solo exhibition MITOBE Nanae Exhibition (2016, gallery21yo-j), and solo exhibition ABRAHAM (2014, LOOP HOLE).