False Front, 1983
acrylic on canvas, 39 x 50 inches
Artwork courtesy of the Raymond K. Yoshida Living Trust
Ray Yoshida was born in Kapa’a, Hawai’i in 1930, nearly three decades before the islands gained U.S. statehood. By that time, he had settled in the midwest, taking a teaching position at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1959. Much like the New York Pop artists of the 1960s, Yoshida found inspiration in both high art and popular culture. Through techniques of collage and painting, he mixed diverse references ranging from American comics to European art. His unusual hybrid works influenced a generation of his students, who became known as The Chicago Imagists.
False Front, painted in 1983 is a modern take on the Post-Impressionist paintings of Georges Seurat. His composition is populated by cartoonish renderings of figures lifted from Seurat’s masterwork Sunday Afternoon in the Park at La Grand Jatte. Here Yoshida reinterprets Seurat’s Pointillist brushstrokes as an accumulation of cells or bacteria, creating an animated image in a state of continual mutation. The themes of hybridization and transformation, which Yoshida explored in his art up until his death in 2009 had broad implications for an artist who straddled two distinct, yet conjoined cultures.
Acknowledging my own shortcomings, I try to observe and absorb all of the contradictions, tragedies, aberrations, all of the laughter, smiles, sarcasm and futilities…and go through the pains and pleasures of painting. Canvases become the visual gathering place of my fragmented self.
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