Nanae Mitobe “I am a Yellow”

Maki Fine Arts

poster for Nanae Mitobe “I am a Yellow”

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You may be familiar with the long-time bestselling children’s book “little blue and little yellow,” written and illustrated by Italian author Leo Lionni. When two anthropomorphized circles, one blue and one yellow, embrace each other and turn green, those around them start treating them like strangers. The story brilliantly illustrates how colored surfaces—wafer thin and cellophane like—gently saturate each other after overlapping, so softly that it is hard to distinguish which color is on top of the other.

Setting aside what the author’s intentions were, Lionni’s story can be interpreted as a simple explanation of how subtractive color mixing works, but it could also be read as a story about discrimination based on skin color. In the late 1800s, a pseudoscience race concept called physiognomy emerged in an attempt to substantiate the observations made during overseas travelling which was becoming widely available even for the middle class. This concept claimed a person’s character or personality could be interpreted through their facial characteristics. In particular, much importance was placed on the shape of the ridgeline—the line extending from forehead to upper lip—when looking at a person’s profile. In most portraits, the model is looking toward the artist, i.e. the viewer, thus the model’s profile is usually not visible. Mitobe’s portraits, in contrast, are not so. In her portraits, the unblemished “ideal” faces of American pop stars and celebrities are replaced by sculls made of pliable paint and skin painted in vivid colors. Eventually, the ridgelines of their profiles disappear under the waves of paint.



from November 23, 2019 to December 22, 2019

Opening Reception on 2019-11-23 from 18:00 to 20:00


Nanae Mitobe



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