Tadanori Yokoo. Shambhala #9 of 14.
Japanese, Shôwa era, 1974. Silkscreen with offset text, 85cm x 57cm.
everything becomes illuminated
On a recent trip to the North Shore in Massachusetts as a visiting artist to the Photography Department at Montserrat College of Art, I was fortunate to reconnect with a number of old friends & artist colleagues—finding great inspiration in doing so.
In addition, I was able to study the Seeking Shambhala exhibition at Boston MFA:
Shambhala is a Sanskrit word describing a mythical land whose exact location is hidden behind mist of snow-capped mountains, where peace reigns, wealth abounds, and there is no illness. The West was first introduced to the concept as “Shangri-la” in the 1930s book and film Lost Horizon, but Shambhala, in both physical and spiritual senses, has been part of Tibetan Buddhist art and culture for centuries.
Beyond having an opportunity to revisit the poignant work of Gonkar Gyatso in this exhibition—a contemporary artist dealing with issues of Tibetan identity in exile—and view a varied collection of 17th century Thangka paintings, I was introduced anew to the work of Tadanori Yokoo, a prolific Japanese graphic artist and painter.
a synesthesia of symbolism
Fascinating enough, Yokoo is said to have stumbled upon the concept of Shambhala while researching UFOs. In his edition of the same name, 14 vividly hued silkscreen prints from 1974 are on display in sequence. In Shambhala, Yokoo cleverly interplays underlying rhythms of Buddhist, Hindu & Occult iconography—all in a visual framework built upon appropriated incense box images, rich pop-art alchemy and various inter-linked visual metaphors. The mixture of iconography and relationship suggested by both form and proximity in his work is quite evocative—the multi-layered execution an inspiring exploration of media, representation & meaning—transcending the sometimes literal limitations of graphic design and print making mediums with great depth in both concept and execution.