Edo Art Meets Anime in the Sublime, Sensual Works of Ai Yamaguchi

Beautiful, slender, and sometimes impossibly curved women were archetypal characters for Ukiyo-e prints in the Japanese Edo period—and are the current obsession of contemporary artist Ai Yamaguchi. In her newest show for Joshua Liner Gallery, “shinchishirin,” Yamaguchi has introduced Edo-inspired females into the worlds of anime and manga to inspire a sublime sexuality.

Many of Yamaguchi’s paintings depict young, nude or half-nude female prostitutes, drawn carefully with fine lines and painted with a flatness and colors and patterns that recall historic wood block prints. In some paintings, the girls stand confidently, their black, wavy hair flowing behind them, while in others, the girls are twisted within their tresses. Some of the acrylic-on-cotton paintings are constructed into nebulous shapes—and are painted so delicately that they give the appearance of a taught pillow or from afar, a porcelain dish. For example, nagusamuru wa is an oval-like shape depicting one of Yamaguchi’s call girls; yet, its delicately painted figure looks as though it were a hidden treasure, gracing the underside of a plate. Other pieces, such as omou koto, appear as though they are built to wrap inside of themselves—in this work specifically, one of the panel’s five pieces portrays a delicately painted female face, but her hair trails onto the other four pieces, reaching toward geometric abstraction. Though the imagery and construction appears soft and fragile, a sense of erotic intensity underlies the work.

Haniya Rae

shinchishirin” is on view at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, May 9th–June 7th, 2014.

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