岡本太郎記念館

‘Primeval’

October 2, 2002 - December 27, 2002

Primeval energy is the power emitted by chaos.
Taro Okamoto was the possessor of clear logic, but deep inside his body there existed this chaos. He was a shaman in tune with a holy mystery.
These paintings reverberate to this primitive sound.

‘Children’s Time’

July 3, 2002 - September 30, 2002

Taro looked at the world through innocent eyes.
Deeply sympathetic. Reverberating with life.
His parents, animals, insects, friends…all of them are Taro himself, while at the same time they contain the mysterious structure of the universe. That is Taro’s world of mythology, and it is filled with unlimited abundance.

‘Anger Beautifully’

April 3, 2002 - July 1, 2002

Taro’s anger was like an exploding volcano. It did not contain personal enmity, rather it was the pure anger of humanity. It was both remarkable and refreshing. When he saw the weak of society―young people, children, women or the disabled―being rebuffed by those in power, he took their side, his anger knowing no limits. We would like you to witness his beautiful transparent wrath.

‘Young Life’

January 5, 2002 - April 1, 2002

A baby as it reaches out its plump hand to try and grasp something, balancing its heavy-looking head as it takes dangerously wobbly steps on unbelievably small feet.
Puppies, kittens, lion cubs, baby elephants and chicks…young animals are all amazing.
This is probably because their lives are open.
Taro Okamoto was that kind of person, always genuine, enthusiastic and never dishonest. He had a sharp intellect, was true to himself and ingenuous.
In this exhibition we have gathered together paintings that will allow you to contact this facet of his personality.

‘Various Types of Love’

October 3, 2001 - December 27, 2001

It is said that genius is androgyne.
Taro Okamoto’s dynamic spirit and readiness to always meet a challenge was definitely that of a man, of an ‘armed warrior’, but in reality, he had a gentle heart, delicate, kind, and easily wounded. He could almost be said to have resembled an innocent girl.
This ambivalence gave rise to various phases of love. Sometimes violently challenging, gazing into each other’s eyes, opening their hearts and blending with each other.
I thrill at the fact that all of these different aspects were Taro Okamoto.

‘Staring Contest’

July 4, 2001 - October 1, 2001

The term ‘staring contest’ sounds quite lighthearted, but for Taro Okamoto, to stare into the eyes of another was a most serious and symbolic act, an interchange life. It can be described as a sort of ceremony.
He produced many paintings like this.
Some of them are serious, some are jocular, some erotic, as life gazes into life.
The broad, deep limitless world spread out before them causes the viewer to shudder.

‘Taro Okamoto, Photographer’

April 4, 2001 - July 2, 2001

Taro Okamoto had a long history as a photographer. Man Ray, Brassai, Capa…leading photographers who are idolized by today’s professionals, were all friends of his while he was living in Paris and at some point in his career he began to use a camera himself. Apparently, he first studied under Man Ray, then later he wandered the streets with Brassai as the latter worked on his famous Paris by Night. Maybe it was due to these experiences, but his control of the camera was precise and fast. He usually never carried his camera with him, only when he was going out for research. Taro Okamoto’s eye. What Taro Okamoto saw. He confronts us straightforwardly and his powerful compositions.

‘Face 2’

January 5, 2001 - April 2, 2001

A frightening face, an artless face, a sad face...all of them are Taro Okamoto.
Artists often paint self-portraits, but there are no self-portraits of Taro Okamoto. Despite this, all these strange creatures are probably none other than Taro Okamoto himself.
We hope that you will search for your own Taro Okamoto among them all.

‘Face 1’

October 4, 2000 - December 27, 2000

The center of the face―the eyes. If you draw the eyes, they will create a face.
I think that there are many people who, when they think of Taro Okamoto’s work, conjure up an image of large eyeballs.
The bulging eyes of the red beast in Law of the Jungle, the goggling eyes of Out of Control. The innocent eye in Blue Skies that looks on in astonishment as the police stamp on it and slams it into the ground. The round eyes on the Tower of the Sun are impressive and the Chairs Refusing to Seat Anyone, all have eyes, making them into faces. He said ‘an eye is a hole linked to the universe.’
For him, they were holes that linked him directly with mystery.

Taro Okamoto’s ‘Wonderworld’

July 5, 2000 - October 2, 2000

It is not human. It is not animal.
These creatures can only be described as belonging to a ‘wonderworld’.
These curious ‘life forms’, these strange beings, the like of which you have never seen before, draw closer to us.
Is that Taro Okamoto? Or is it the image (form) of another world he is watching. ― Whichever it is, they are alive!!

‘Characters at Play’

April 5, 2000 - July 3, 2000

There is an art book entitled ‘Asobu Ji (Characters at Play). The contents consist entirely of pictographs that resemble paintings. The character for ‘raku’, meaning ‘happy’, seems to smile and really does look merry while the character for ‘e’ (painting) resembles a person holding a brush and painting a picture. They overflow with a mischievous playfulness typical of Taro Okamoto. Taro never differentiated between writing and painting as forms of expression. Japanese characters are based originally on pictures and he was capable of seeing the true shapes of the characters that existed before they became stylized to create writing. Moreover, the vivid colors seem to rise up on their own. They are simultaneously writing and painting. We hope that you will enjoy Taro Okamoto’s ‘playfulness’.

‘Original Painting for the Mural’

January 5, 2000 - April 3, 2000

There are innumerable examples murals, monuments and public art that Taro Okamoto created to be displayed in public spaces. As he said, ‘Everybody should be free to praise or criticize them without paying a penny, as if they belonged to them. It does not matter if people just pass them by without giving them a second look. That is okay. But some people will say that a picture is worth millions, reverentially storing it away out of sight without even looking at it. And they call that art?’ Art should be open and belong to everybody. This was where he focused his enthusiasm and cheerfully took up the challenge. He also had an outstanding spatial sense, allowing him to accurately grasp the overall environment of a place. As a result his works all fit in ideally with their surroundings.
Although these original paintings are small and rough, they establish a clear image of the whole space as it will be when the work is completed.

‘Taro’s Pieta’

October 6, 1999 - December 27, 1999

You may think it strange that Taro Okamoto would produce a Pieta, a picture of the body of Christ being held by his grieving mother after having been taken down from the cross. It is a common theme in European art, but I do not think I have seen many examples of one by a Japanese artist. Taro Okamoto spent his entire life facing new challenges. He realized that one day he too would reach the end of his strength and die and these pictures are an intimation of that time. Although none were ever finished, he produced numerous Pietas. Exhausted, the fight finished, the naked body, covered with wounds, was taken down by the arms and laid on the woman’s lap. This truly is an image of Taro Okamoto himself. He is dead, but he has not finished appealing his existence. The heartrending cry upon which he gambled his life, reverberates deeply and quietly in the heart of the woman he loved, oscillating through the world and the universe. It is as if he is saying ‘Who was this person? What was his fate? Look at him!’ Why did Taro draw so many Pietas? Although he drew lots, he never finished one of them. Maybe he thought he would do it sometime in the future.

‘Taro and Living Creatures’  

July 7, 1999 - October 4, 1999

‘I was born Tokyo’s Aoyama 6 Chome and lived there during my childhood. In those days there were no surfaced roads in Japan and the air was always filled with the smell of earth and numerous insects flew in front of my eyes. ‘These insects were the things that I was closest to and most familiar with. In spring there were the butterflies, in summer, the cicadas, dragonflies, and fireflies then came the grasshoppers, crickets and long-horned beetles… I used to catch all kinds of insects and play with them. ‘I would look at the tiny insects moving beneath my eyes and ask myself if that was me, if I had become an insect, experiencing a fulfilling sense of confusion. ‘I still feel a fraternity with the undifferentiated life that stirs in the depths of my heart and comes rushing out.’ (Taro Okamoto)

‘Taro’s Eroticism’  

April 7, 1999 - July 4, 1999

Taro’s eroticism is not a form of sweet, moody love. A woman bending backwards, a man approaching without restraint. The man himself is being ripped apart. There can be no joy without tension and pain. That is what it seems to say.
Anybody who looks at the statue, Love, will understand that it represents an image of two people lying down. It is abstract, but the man on the left is gallant, well-built and masculine. Jagged serrations thrust up into the air, like man-eating sharks, but the body is firm and gentle. The woman’s round hips, her legs slightly twisted. They are filled with a pure emotion as they snuggle together; it is both charming and erotic, a sensual image of a man and woman.
However, when he created this Taro was naive, yet, aggressive, like a mischievous boy playing in the mud. His face and body were covered in plaster as he worked with hammer and chisel, single-mindedly devoting himself to the challenge.
As he worked, he would say, ‘Women are women, men are men.’

‘TARO’s Mother and Child’

January 6, 1999 - April 4, 1999

Taro Okamoto―Mother, people immediately think of Kanoko Okamoto and it is a fact that his mother, Kanoko, was a big influence in the making of Taro Okamoto, the artist. Intense, pure, devoted. Mother and child resembled each other closely.
He produced numerous works entitled Mother and Child and it is likely that he was not necessarily thinking of Kanoko when he created them. The two people portrayed here share an impetuous, tense relationship, their lives pulling intensely at each other, it is believed that these works depict the awesomeness of the fundamental female image represented by his ‘mother’, who confronted his whole existence.

‘TARO’s Festival’

October 7, 1998 - December 27, 1998

The original paintings of playing cards shown in this exhibition will probably come as a surprise to those of you for whom the name Taro Okamoto conjures up an image of large-scale, intense, dynamic works. In 1977 a specialist Belgian playing card company wanted to produce some original, artistic cards and Taro was commissioned to create hand-drawn designs for the kings, queens, jacks and aces for the four suites as well as two jokers, a total of eighteen cards in all.
He took great delight in designing the letters ‘J’, ‘Q’, ‘K’, etc. for the cards applying them carefully. He particularly liked the cute, coquettish women designs he created for the queens and aces.

We hope that you will enjoy Taro Okamoto’s playfulness.

‘Taro’s Sun 2’

August 19, 1998 - October 4, 1998

The eleven ceramic wall designs that were produced to decorate the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in 1956 disappeared when the building was demolished.
In this exhibition we will present the original large-scale sketches for this work as well as the actual-size plaster molds.
Looking at these molds that Taro carved from the solid plaster, determined to meet the challenge presented by this masterpiece of architecture designed by Kenzo Tange, we can feel his vigor as he worked with the image of the vast two-story space in his mind.
We hope that you will think back to this lost masterpiece.

‘Taro’s Sun’

July 1, 1998 - August 16, 1998

The studio, guest room and garden all remain exactly as they were in Taro’s day, retaining so much of Taro Okamoto’s power that you almost expect him to appear at any moment.

‘Meeting Taro’

May 7 - June 28, 1998

Care has been taken to preserve the studio, guest room and garden just as they were when Taro Okamoto was still alive. We hope that you will be able to meet Taro in this explosive space, filled with his energy, together with artistic furniture and a forest of molds for his sculptures and monuments.