Yumiko Kayukawa’s work borrows the ideography of advertising and album covers and the deep well of folklore to transform her identity into a proxy, a character called Yumiko Kayukawa who is as much at home at the bottom of the sea cuddling with humpback whales as she is conversing with herself via cellphone amongst a herd of water buffaloes. Indeed several Yumiko Kayukawa’s can share the frame simultaneously, only one of her many superhero traits which include breathing underwater or levitating upon a cloud shaped cushion. But the posture seen most frequently is that of affinity for woodland creatures. Like Kintaro, wildlife is acquaintance rather than threat to Kayukawa. In Calm Down she helps some cubs restrain their frothing parent, her allegiance to the animal kingdom stitched right onto her clothes in the bear shaped patches on her jean shorts. Quiet Morning finds her sharing a cup of tea with a serow, interrupted it seems by you.
While folk tales and mythology are replete with stories of characteristics and powers beyond human ken, the true vehicle for expression here is the glossy layouts of fashion magazines which provide the vocabulary where such staged bits of fantasy and dream logic become possible. None of the paintings would look out of place in an add for Onitsuka tigers or Sketchers (or PETA for that matter). They also resemble comic book covers, essentially ads for what’s inside, where a narrative of 20 odd pages must be compressed into a single distinct image. To that purpose, elements can be transposed or appear symbolically, just as Kayukawa can perch on the pole of the Earth or wolves can scamper along her spine. Superimposed text and embellishments, here overlayed kanji and decorative stylized flowers, clouds and waves, are also familiar traits. Just as in a cover or splash page, the gaze is always directed at the viewer.
Ads then for a product that is a property called Kayukawa, which only exists within the “ad.” It’s an interesting approach because all of the techniques are already in a visual language we understand. By appropriating them she short circuits the normal relationship we have to a striking advertisement. The brand is a constructed identity, off on another adventure which you can take in at a glance. It’s as if the artist sidestepped the normal route by way of celebrity and proceeded directly to representation, avoiding all the long tour gigs and crummy record deals.
The Shooting Gallery who currently hosts Kayukawa’s work actually shares space with White Walls next door (in fact the entrance proper is through White Walls). Japanese Wolf proved a nice meditative precursor before viewing Cleon Peterson’s paintings which detail in a sharp comic art style grim scenes appropriate to the seedier elements of the Tenderloin neighborhood nearby but which escalate from work to work to full blown images of rioting, rape and police brutality. One articulates the collective lives of residents in a down and out street block, the pink, black and white palette giving it the dayglo atmosphere of neon lit night. All share the same forced grimace, from prostitute to knife victim to drug dealer, everyone that is except those who have ultimately succumbed to drunken oblivion.