Gagosian gallery is gearing up to present a captivating exhibition, “My Anxious Self,” showcasing the remarkable paintings of the late Tetsuya Ishida (1973–2005). Curated by Cecilia Alemani, this highly anticipated exhibition will open its doors on September 12 at Gagosian, located at 555 West 24th Street in New York.
It marks a significant milestone as Gagosian takes on global representation of the Tetsuya Ishida Estate, featuring over eighty works generously lent by private collectors, the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art in Japan, and the Tetsuya Ishida Estate. Notably, this exhibition offers the most extensive display of Ishida’s work outside of Japan and marks his debut in the vibrant art scene of New York City.
At first, it was a self-portrait. I tried to make myself—my weak self, my pitiful self, my anxious self—into a joke or something funny that could be laughed at. It was sometimes seen as a parody or satire referring to contemporary people. As I continued to think about this, I expanded it to include consumers, city-dwellers, workers, and the Japanese people.Tetsuya Ishida
Journey into Human Alienation
In a span of just ten years, Ishida created a compelling body of work, with human alienation as its central theme. His artistic journey unfolded during Japan’s “Lost Decade,” a period of extended economic recession throughout the 1990s. Ishida’s artworks eloquently capture the prevailing sense of hopelessness, claustrophobia, and disconnection that permeated Japanese society during this challenging era, despite rapid technological progress. Through his art, suffused with Kafkaesque absurdity, Ishida offers profound reflections on the complexities of contemporary life.
A poignant insight shared by Michiaki Ishida, the artist’s brother, reveals Tetsuya’s dream of visiting New York, the epicenter of contemporary art, symbolized by the American one-dollar bills he held onto until his untimely passing. Larry Gagosian aptly acknowledges that Ishida’s oeuvre delves into the human condition with a sense of urgency and timelessness rarely seen in an artist of his age.
An Intriguing Oeuvre
Nick Simunovic, senior director of Gagosian in Asia, expresses his enduring fascination with Ishida’s work and the privilege of presenting it in New York. With over eighty works from Ishida’s limited lifetime output, this exhibition introduces a new audience to the extraordinary depth of his artistic legacy.
In a perceptive catalogue essay, Diethard Leopold, co-founder and curator of the Leopold Museum in Vienna, delves into Ishida’s unique use of self-portraiture in his paintings. This distinctive approach serves as a tool for critical observation of the common “salaryman.” Ishida’s self-portraits offer diverse perspectives, meticulously curated for Alemani’s exhibition in New York.
“My Anxious Self” unfolds across five thematic sections, each thoughtfully occupying its own gallery space. “Waiting for a Chance” explores estrangement and the loss of self through depictions of assembly lines and regimented worker-consumers. These artworks often depict individuals fused with machines, providing a distinctive view of societal conformity.
“Helpless Metamorphoses” presents works portraying human bodies intertwined with animals or objects, drawing inspiration from Surrealist themes. Ishida adds a unique social critique specific to his millennial context.
“Desperately Lonely” focuses on solitude and isolation within constructed interiors, often invaded by nature, creating a striking contrast between the individual and the environment.
“Neo-Tokyo” concentrates on cityscapes and urban exteriors, featuring source materials that influenced Ishida’s work, including movies, news broadcasts, and his favorite manga and anime.
“Restless Dream” completes the journey with paintings dominated by haunting images of maternity, childhood, dreams, and death.
Catalogue Highlights and Rich Heritage
The exhibition catalogue boasts an introduction by Michiaki Ishida, a foreword by Larry Gagosian, essays by Cecilia Alemani and Diethard Leopold, and a captivating short story, “The Red Cocoon,” penned by the award-winning Japanese writer Kobo Abe.
Born in Yaizu, Japan, in 1973, Tetsuya Ishida made an indelible mark on the art world with solo exhibitions that left an enduring legacy.
Don’t Miss the Event
“My Anxious Self” promises to be an exhibition of profound depth, offering unique insights into the human condition. It is a must-see event for art enthusiasts.
Mark your calendars for the opening reception on Tuesday, September 12, from 6–8 pm. The exhibition runs from September 12 to October 21, 2023, at 555 West 24th Street, New York. Be sure to visit gagosian.com follow #TetsuyaIshida for updates and insights.