It is mostly the bare curves of women's bodies that populate the focal point of Keiichi Tanaami's black and white drawings from the late 60s and early 70s. One woman swivels her shapely derriere lasciviously in the center of the picture, while the other takes off her pullover, revealing her breasts. They lay there sprawled out on a chaise longue, or sitting straddle-legged on the tip of an airplane, or they are engulfed in the sex act. Already as early as the sixties, Tanaami's drawings sing the praise of the independence of eroticism as well as the liberation afforded by the imaginary.
The cosmos of Tanaami images shown in the Berliner Galerie Gebr. Lehmann belongs to a time when Japan's postwar society was recovering from war with the USA, when new prosperity was emerging. They belong to a time when economic consumption was activated, when not only the US-made drug LSD reached Japan's shores, but also the credo of free love. They were the years when Tanaami, as a young man, crossed the art of the absurd-Neo-dada-with the art of materialism and mass consumption-pop art. From that moment on he has been recognized as trailblazer and intellectual foster father for a line of great Japanese artists including Takashi Murakami and Tabaimo.
Born in Tokyo prefecture in 1936, Tanaami experienced the 1945 American attacks on Japan and the bombardment of Japanese metropolises when he was nine years old. Many images from this time cast enduring shadows in his memory, and impressions of howling air raid sirens belong to those childhood days, as do the firebombs, the fleeing masses of people, or the deformed goldfish in his father's aquarium. Tanaami studied graphic design at Musashino College of the Arts. He won several prizes that instantly garnered him national recognition as a successful illustrator and graphic designer. He designed several record covers for internationally successful bands like The Monkees or Jefferson Airplane. What's more, he was the first art director of the Japanese Playboy Magazine.
In 1967 he travels to the USA for the first time, and it's there that he finds answers to his questions. Andy Warhol initiates him into the technique of silkscreen printing. The route he takes on his journey starts off on the East Coast, then the West Coast. Here he breathes in the incredible energies of psychedelic America, tries LSD, and frolics at lavish and wild parties.
At this point Tanaami's art flows from drawing and collage into film storyboard and then back again. In his animations people submerge into grotesque patterns, are swallowed up, fly around; dreams encounter other dreams; manga iconography blends with American superheroes; Marilyn Monroe and Yoko Ono make appearances, too; Hokusai's waves are visited by Superman. His films were shown regularly at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and the Ottawa International Animation Festival, to name a couple. They were also shown at Centre Pompidou and MoMA.
These influences from the 60s can be experienced once again at Galerie Gebr. Lehmann. The pulse of America's Beat Generation overlaps with the Hippies; the erotic-imaginary is chosen as the central focus. His gallerist, Shinji Nanzuka, will attend the opening. In addition, a catalogue with a text by Stefano Stoll, published by the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, will be available.