Tanaami!!Akatsuka!! Byobu sample

Keiichi Tanaami

Tanaami!! Akatsuka!!, 2023

Byobu folding screen

21 ft x 6 ft x 2 ft

Presented by Shueisha Manga-Art Heritage (SMAH), Booth B15

SMAH presents a large-scale Byōbu installation by Keiichi Tanaami,  an extension of an existing gravure print series “Tanaami!! Akatsuka!!” a collaboration between TOKYO POP LEGEND Keiichi Tanaami and GAG MANGA KING Fujio Akatsuka. The work depicts “Iyami” and  “Akko-chan”, the characters from Fujio Akatsuka’s manga. Iyami, with three protruding teeth, was so popular in Japan in the 1960s that Godzilla and even John Lennon during visiting Japan mimicked his famous pose. Tanaami has repeated this characteristic face and filled it with different and excessive floral patterns and recreated one of the most Japanese iconic characters into rather an abstract entity. Akko-chan was first animated in 1969 and has continued to be adapted to TV through 2000. She transforms herself into anything she wishes with a magical mirror. In Byōbu her portrait becomes more blurry and noisier mixed with TV scanning lines which suggests Akko-chan is transformed into something different gradually.

Byōbu folding screens, introduced to Japan in the 7th century, are made from several joined paper panels with a variety of subjects and designs, from ink and wash paintings to gorgeous gold leaf paintings, used to separate interiors and enclose private spaces. The installation makes use of this folding screen structure to depict a series of changing images. The public can witness how Japanese traditions merged with contemporary mass culture to create a new expression. It also reminds us of how media, TV in the 60’s and SNS now, affects all of our identity. 

 A seminal figure of Japanese Pop art, Keiichi Tanaami makes colorful, cartoonish paintings, collages, animations, and works on paper that challenge divisions between “high” and “low” culture and between East and West. Throughout his alternately surreal, erotic, violent, and unsettling work, he juxtaposes references from 20th-century Americana—vintage pin-ups, logos, and ’60s psychedelia, for example—with elements of traditional Japanese illustration and manga. Drawing on his childhood memories of American bombings in Tokyo during World War II, Tanaami has also incorporated images of military planes, explosions, beams of light, floating heads, gigantic fish, and bizarre hybrid figures into his oeuvre. The artist studied graphic design at Musashino Art University and established a successful advertising and editorial career. Encounters with Japan’s Neo-Dada scene and Andy Warhol’s work inspired him to focus on fine art. Tanaami has exhibited widely across the globe, and his work belongs in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of ChicagoYokohama Museum of Art, M+, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., among others. Tanaami has also collaborated with brands including Adidas, BE@RBRICK, and Uniqlo. 

Image Credits: Keiichi Tanaami, Tanaami!! Akatsuka!!, 2023.