What is “Outsider” Art in Japan?

Seventy-two artists from across the country debut over 2,000 works at Gallery AaMo

poster for Nobumasa Kushino Outside Japan Exhibition

Nobumasa Kushino Outside Japan Exhibition

at Gallery AaMo
in the Tokyo: Others area
This event has ended - (2019-04-12 - 2019-05-19)

In Reviews by Emily Saya Niemann 2019-05-14


The unusual exhibition Nobumasaki Kushino’s Outsider Art makes its first appearance in Japan at Gallery AaMo. The show brings together Japan’s “outsider art,” generally referring to works by individuals who have not received formal artistic training or education. Curator Nobumasa Kushino highlights each artist’s unique identity through their respective art practice. Guest visitor Suidobashi Hakase describes the exhibition as “strange,” while Kushino states that it will especially appeal to those who are キャラクター (character) lovers.

The exhibition is divided into 11 sections, filled with an array of curious art mediums. Sections communicate different themes such as「憧れ」(longing), 「描く」(to draw/paint), or シルバー (silver aka senior art), to name just a few. Artists include hobbyists or “otakus” who fixate on their obsessions, seniors who use art as a way of therapeutic healing, and amateur artists who simply take delight in sharing their individual creations.

A visual diary depicting meals consumed by artist Itsuo Kobayashi (colored pencil)

From the ‘Silver Art’ section, hats made of drink cartons by Hachiro Tsubaki

When compared to other exhibitions in Tokyo, such as those that feature highly acclaimed artists, “Outsider Art” is much more down-to-earth, and even children can even enjoy the innocence with which the artists express themselves. However, there is one section of the exhibition, “Eros,” which is recommended for adults only. It revolves around the concept of sex and sexuality.

Entrance to the ‘Eros’ section (must be 18 or older to enter)

From the ‘Fake’ section, self-portrait photographs of artist Sugino Ichiyo as Japanese celebrities

“Outsider Art” captures a range of colorful and “strange” artists in Japan that may have otherwise not been showcased in a gallery environment. Snippets of their biographies are displayed next to their works, letting visitors get to know the artists behind their unique creations. The overwhelming number of pieces on display is a testament to the fact that art is available as a creative outlet for everyone, whether you have received artistic training or not, and can also be communicated to all.

Emily Saya Niemann

Emily Saya Niemann. Emily studied art history at UCLA. She then came to Japan and pursued her M.A. in Japanese Studies at Sophia University. Her research explored the dichotomy of Japanese-American identity/race. Her final master's project was titled: "The problem of mystifying historical tropes of Japan in contemporary museum context: a case study on Lords of the Samurai at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco." Her interest in identity stems from being half Japanese and half American herself. In her spare time, she thinks about how absurd life is. You can follow her on Instagram: @emilys.niemann Photo: Yuki Yamamoto » See other writings

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