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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Psychedelic Japanese Poster Artist Yokoo Tadanori

For a dude who was known as a psychedelic poster artist, the Wikipedia web-page for Yokoo Tadanori is pretty damn vanilla.


Yokoo Tadanori (横尾 忠則, surname first) was born on June 27, 1936 in Hyōgo-ken (Hyōgo-prefecture) is a Japanese graphic designer, illustrator, printmaker and painter… but he was, during the swinging psychedelic 60s, the premier Japanese artist of all things trippy.

Above and below are example of his poster art!
Tadanori Yokoo was one cool-looking dude, as seen on this 1967 cover of The Design Review magazine.
I was born in the 60s… I remember the 60s, and I’m pretty sure I was there… just not “THERE”, if you know what all those smelly hippies were talking about, man.

While I may not have cared for the smell of a hippie, I actually respect and love their counter-culture revolution. Still, there's nothing wrong with soap... or soap that doesn't have hemp in it.

In the early 1970s, I was into ecology… which is a word you’ll never see any more except from guys like me, as it was meant to refer to environmentalism (IE the environment), but has since replaced with “green” and sustainability and other crap.
The 1970s Ecology flag, man.

Whoa, mellow out, man. yer gonna pop a vessel, man… and we’re all too stoned to give a flying monkeys have rainbows exploding toothbrushes for angry iguana… zzzzzz….. xylophone, man… xylophone.

Later when I grew into a teenager and was forced to make decisions on what type of music, I did things my own way… playing classical music on the accordion, purchasing my first albums (Blondie: Parallel Lines and Pink Floyd: The Wall, the same time), and still listening and loving the Beatles… while deciding quite sensibly, I figured to listen to rock music at the beginning, moving into 1960s pop and Motown, to folk, to psychedelic to funk, to hard rock to heavy metal to punk to Blues, rocking Blues, to grunge (which is really just hard rock mixed with a bit of psychedelic)… and then that’s pretty much where I stopped.
An old book I used to have as a kid.

I have since grown to enjoy Disco - I won’t dance to it, and don’t need the nose candy to wear those god-awful clothes, but I can dig the beat.

I still prefer funk… just not on any damned musician or hippie.

I was eight when I used a paisley patterned sheet (blue, yellow and bits of purple) to go as a hippie ghost for Halloween. You only think I’m joking, but no… it made perfect sense to me.

Nothing scarier than a “Damned Hippy”… riiiiight, I just thought it was fun.

Anyhow… Yookoo… I don’t know WHY, but he was raised by his grandparents, who owned a kimono shop… so he was surrounded by wonderful color, and patterns from a very early age.

Without formal training, he became one of Japan’s loving tributes to the global art scene.

Here’s what  his Wikipedia page says:  “He began his career as a stage designer for avant garde theater in Tokyo. His early work shows the influence of the New York based Push Pin Studio (Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast in particular) but Yokoo himself cites filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and writer Yukio Mishima as two of his most formative influences.”

In the late 1960s he became interested in mysticism and psychedelia, deepened by travels in India.
I wonder if that was because the Beatles went…

Some people call Yokoo the “Japanese Andy Warhol”

or the “Japanese Peter Max”

- nothing wrong with that, as one was a trippy painter who milked the four-panel art scene, and the other used acrylics and acid (I assume) to create the best rock and roll art posters that literally helped define an entire decade, art-wise… okay… Warhol did, too.

But, if you are fans of either Warhol or Max, or are like me, respect their art and have a base knowledge of such things, you’ll look at Yokoo’s art and see that it looks like his own art style.

Just grab an I-ful of his towering pillars of atomic vomit and understand, man, just what the universe is trying to tell you man, about mother Earth, and how we have to stop killing everyone, man - even the Viet Cong, man because who’s going to Mot The Hoople, you know? Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig.

Anyhow, here’s what Japanese playright Mishima Yukio (dude, surname first) had to say about Yokoo’s art back in 1968: "Tadanori Yokoo's works reveal all of the unbearable things which we Japanese have inside ourselves and they make people angry and frightened. He makes explosions with the frightening resemblance which lies between the vulgarity of billboards advertising variety shows during festivals at the shrine devoted to the war dead and the red containers of Coca Cola in American Pop Art, things which are in us but which we do not want to see.”

Wow… that’s pretty heavy, man. Like there’s is no gravity, because the world sucks. In a bad way.

Artistically, if you look at the poster art, he uses photography a lot, while drawing on ukiyo-e stylings mixed with 1960s Pop art - especially if you see how he applies color to flat area, while sometimes using sexual imagery to make whatever point it was he was trying to make… I don’t know… I wasn’t really there in the 1960s. 

Despite his success creating poster art, he gave it up in 1981 as he switched to “Fine Art” after seeing a Picasso retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

But… he still dabbles in popular art nowadays… perhaps because that sells better?

There is a really nice interview with Yokoo Tadanori done August 7, 2011… you can click HERE to read the English-language Japan Times article.

Trick or treat, man,
Andrew Joseph

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