The headline above is taken from a remarkable article By Jen Graves in The Stranger about the “Great Seattle artist” Akio Takamori. For those of us who know Akio it is not an easy read beginning with the blunt first sentence, “Akio Takamori’s doctor says the chemo isn’t working and the cancer is untreatable. The last time we spoke, the Seattle artist was feverishly making work about what it means to apologize while also facing the realization that the last American president of his lifetime would be a man who never apologizes for anything.”
Above image: Akio Takamori. Photographs by Jen Graves.
Having known this exceptional artist, a mix of tenderness and wisdom, since 1981 (and having represented him from then until the day my gallery closed in 2008), we have watched each other’s families grow up and his friendship is an ongoing privilege. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that he taken on this large, meaningful theme, exploring the human conscience, the hub of being human, for a new exhibition at a time of waning energy. Nor is it surprising that he has just returned from a week-long visit to New York. Art and travel is his fuel.
Akio has always faced life’s challenges with humor. It is both his pillow and his sword. We met him for dinner with his wife Vickie in New York several years ago when he had his first bout of cancer, a lymphoma that affected his groin area. When asked how this had altered his life he replied, “not much, except that because of the radiation I can no longer accept lap dances from pregnant women.”
In the article Akio muses about the election, “Watching the debate, Hillary and Trump next to each other on the screen, I see the masculinity and the femininity harden into battlegrounds.”
As Graves writes:
He took that clash as he perceived it and melded it into single, bizarre figures. He began sculpting male heads with female bodies. The male heads were middle-aged: sad, aging, balding, wrinkled, fat-necked. The female bodies were smooth, curvy, and young, based on a single idealized Greek nude, Venus—a woman invented by a man. She is not a woman; she is the projection of the man at the top. Takamori depicted his own face on one of the heads.
In our conversation, Takamori joked about how a misogynist’s “worst nightmare would be to have a female body.” He joked that Donald Trump’s worst nightmare would be to try to grab a pussy and end up mauling his own, as he would if he were built like Takamori’s sculptures. Yet Takamori had put his own head on a Venus, too, wearing a sad, regretful expression, not one of anger.
The idea for Apology came when Takamori was reading a New York Times in his Seattle home and saw, on the front page, a photograph of a Japanese man apologizing. Captivated, he searched the web for more pictures of apologizing men, Western and Eastern. He found Japanese car-company CEOs, who often bowed, and whom photographers seemed to enjoy portraying at strange angles. He clipped those out, as well as pictures of the historic moment in 1970 when German chancellor Willy Brandt dropped to his knees and clasped his hands in silence before a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazis in Warsaw.
To learn about Akio’s views and approach to this subject more click here and read this exceptional piece of journalism. His show will be at the James Harris Gallery, Seattle in February. Put it on the “must see” list.
Garth Clark is Chief Editor of cfile.daily.
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