Asia Society

Songs by the Ramones and other punk bands that Nara first heard in the late 1970s affected him deeply and shaped his philosophical outlook. Nara’s resolve to live his life on his own terms and never let go of his independence is encapsulated in his personal motto: never forget the beginner’s spirit. At the root of this is the so-called do-it-yourself spirit of punk culture. From his earliest to most recent works, Nara often makes direct reference to his favorite musicians or song lyrics—testament to the fact that music is always playing in his mind, in his studio, and often in his installations.

Nara is also an avid record collector. As a music-hungry high-school student, he often purchased foreign import records by sharing the cost with his friends. For Nara, album art is as important as the music that comes inside; an album jacket, he has said, is a charged space for collaboration between sound and image. Many artists have created album covers that give visual expression to music in this way: Andy Warhol for the Velvet Underground and Nico, Peter Blake for The Beatles, Robert Rauschenberg for Talking Heads, and Raymond Pettibon for Sonic Youth, to name a few. Nara himself has created album art for a number of musicians, such as Jim Black, R.E.M., and the Japanese punk groups Shonen Knife and The Star Club, visualizing each band’s unique musical style.

The music references in his work also serve as catalysts for personal associations, encouraging viewers to recall their own memories of certain songs and bands. Those who are new to the bands Nara cites may develop an interest in them, while those who are more familiar with the music may find their perspectives widening.

In more recent years, a clearly noticeable change has taken place in Nara’s work. His children appear more contemplative, and carefully layered background color adds to the solemn atmosphere. Such a stylistic change not only is due to new life experiences, but as the artist himself explains, also parallels a shift in his preferred music. After his journey through the rebellion of rock and punk, Nara is turning again to American folk and soul music for inspiration.

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Foursquare and Asia Society

During the Yoshitomo Nara exhibition, Asis Society launched its first ever campaign
with Foursquare featuring 2 for 1 admission to the exhibition.

Check future exhibitions for similar deals and specials.