“What I am seeking (now) is an expression of anguish, but not something depressing that ends in self-pity…not to show off my anguished feelings but a form of humor that laughs off such emotions. It is close to nonsense.”
-Tetsuya Ishida (1973-2005)
A melancholy man opens his shirt to reveal a detailed map drawn or tattooed upon his torso. Behind him, a line of bright fire stretches across a blue stream. Later, a remarkably similar face appears in the seat of a baby’s stroller, a toddler in red overalls guiding it through the grass. Next, the head is transported into the cab of a backhoe, an open beer tilted from its bucket, filling a glass extended by someone out of frame. This is the world of Tetsuya Ishida.
Tetsuya Ishida: Saving the World with a Brushstroke is the first U.S. exhibition of paintings by the Japanese artist, who died in 2005. Ishida blended dreamlike realities with everyday life and melancholy isolation with bizarre wit, producing a body of work that triggers strong emotions but actively resists easy explanation.
Ishida once said he wanted his paintings to “depict the world as [he felt] it and let other people feel it freely.” The Asian Art Museum is proud to introduce eight remarkable paintings that exhibit the range of Ishida’s themes, including the pressures of academic and office life, social dislocation, the dulling effects of mechanization and the search for identity.
Ishida noted being drawn to artists who “feel the pain of all mankind” and who “truly believe that the world is saved a little with each brushstroke.” Ishida’s desire to use humor as a way of dissipating the tension inherent in difficult themes amplifies the darkness and lightness in these paintings. Their highly personal subject matter is sure to resonate a little differently with each viewer. Whether the paintings provide insight—or even salvation—is left for you to decide.