Keiichi Tanaami

Japan 1936

Pop Art, Illustration, Video Art, Design

Keiichi Tanaami
Keiichi Tanaami
July 23, 2016

Keiichi Tanaami is one of the most important artists of postwar Japan and a prolific creator who has been active since the 1960s as a graphic designer, illustrator, and video artist. His imagery is crowded with various war motifs, such as American bombers, fleeing masses, and searchlights. His paintings and sculptures blend together the elements of pop art with the memories from his childhood that don’t include only World War II scenes, but also hallucinatory experiences and high fevers. At the same time, Tanaami’s works have a certain connection with the religious practices of Asia and Japanese history and culture.

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Keiichi Tanaami – Cherry Blossoms Falling in the Evening Gloom, 2014

Early Biography and World War II

Keiichi Tanaami was born in the mid-30s in Tokyo and he was only 9 years old when Tokyo was bombed during the World War II in 1945. My dreams were a vortex of fear and anxiety, anger and resignation, recalls Tanaami. He was into visual arts from his early childhood and during his high schools days he started practicing drawing together with the famous cartoonish Kazushi Hara. However, after Hara has suddenly died, Tanaami got involved with the pioneering disciplines of early manga and graphic novel art which eventually led to his career of a professional artist at Musashino University. He was very successful and talented and in 1958 he was awarded the Special Selection at an exhibition held by the Japanese illustration masters. After graduation, Keiichi Tanaami started working in an advertising agency, but due to the popularity of his works and numberless private commission, he had to quit this job. In the second part of the ‘60s, he got dedicated to innovative forms of creation, such as making video pieces.

Keiichi Tanaami got involved with the pioneering disciplines of manga and graphic novels

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Keiichi Tanaami – The Bridge to Another World, 2011

Support of Psychedelic Culture and Pop Trends

During the 1960s, the Sogetsu Center in Akasaka became the gathering point of many experimental, avant-garde artists such as Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik. The Sogetsu center was also playing new experimental films and videos from America. Around that time, Keiichi Tanaami heard about the Sogetsu Animation Festival held in 1965 and decided to make an animation for it, called Marionettes in Masks. During the festival, he learned more the works of Andy Warhol as well as the phenomena of American consumerism along with psychedelic culture. He started producing kitschy, colorful illustrations and designs which resonated well with the current artistic tendencies and they were praised in both Japan and the United States. Some of his most famous pieces from this period are NO MORE WAR poster from 1968 and album covers for bands such as The Monkees and Jefferson Airplane. Thanks to these artworks, Tanaami managed to introduce the psychedelic trends to Japan. The same goes for his series of erotic paintings portraying Hollywood actresses, which show the artist’s attitude related to the American contemporary world.

Some of Tanaami’s famous pieces are NO MORE WAR poster from 1968, album covers for bands such as The Monkees and Jefferson Airplane and many bizarre video series

Keiichi Tanaami – Crayon Angel, 2013

Works after the 70s and Exhibitions

In the mid-70s, Tanaami became the director of the Japanese version of Playboy Magazine and around the same time, he traveled to New York to visit Playboy’s headquarters. For the occasion, he also went to see Andy Warhol’s Factory. When it comes to Tanaami’s personal style from the 1970s and 80s, he was producing both film and print-based works, which were highly provocative. His movies were well-received and they appeared many short film festivals, such as the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in Germany, the New York Film Festival and the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 1976. Unfortunately, in 1981, Tanaami suffered a pulmonary edema which nearly killed him. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, the majority of his works revolved around the theme of life and death, based on his personal experiences and traumas. In 1999, a major retrospective of Tanaami’s works was opened at Gallery 360° in Tokyo and the exhibition was a great success amongst youth. Encouraged by this achievement, Tanaami started presenting his new works in the field of fine art, such as painting and sculpture. In these works, he still relies on his personal memories related to war, illnesses, and psychedelic motifs. During the 2000s, Keiichi Tanaami continued participating in various film festivals, such as the Stuttgart Festival of Animation Film in Germany, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France, the Los Angeles Animation Festival and Japanese film screening at the MoMA in New York, in 2013.

In 1999, a major retrospective of Tanaami’s works, which are a bridge between the East and the West, was held at Gallery 360° in Tokyo

Keiichi Tanaami – Sweet Friday, 2013

Combination of Eastern and Western Elements

Keiichi Tanaami’s innovative projects are much more than an unusual mix of Eastern and Western traditions. Tanaami also introduces a lot of personal elements to his works, making this mix appear powerful and bizarre at times, in line with the psychedelic tradition and surrealism. Since 2006, the presence of Tanaami’s works on the worldwide exhibition scene go stronger and he obtained a lot of international acclaim at galleries and museums across the world. His new works in the sector of film and animations are still regularly screened at various movie festivals.

Keiichi Tanaami lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.

Featured image: Keiichi Tanaami’s Portrait – Photo Credits Finbar O’Mallon
All images courtesy of the artist.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Visible Darkness, Invisible DarknessSikkema Jenkins & Co., New YorSolo
2016Passion - Fan behavior and artLudwig Museum of Contemporary Art, BudapestGroup
2016International PopPhiladelphia Museum of Art, PhiladelphiaGroup
2016MYSTIFIERSNational Centre for Contemporary Arts, MoscowGroup
2016Rotterdom International Film FestivalRotterdomGroup
2016Eyes Go Pop: Psychedelic JapanTate Modern, LondonGroup
2015Lost and wandering BridgeGallery Retara, SapporoSolo
2015Passage in the Air (1975-1993)NANZUKA, TokyoSolo
2015CollagesCorbett vs. Dempsey, ChicagoSolo
2015Keiichi TanaamiBANK GALLERY, TokyoGroup
2015UnorthodoxThe Jewish Museum, New YorkGroup
2015The World Goes PopTate Modern, LondonGroup
2015Various Artists - Before the GIFHigh Line Channel 14, New YorkGroup
2015Taro Okamoto and Masayoshi Nakamura - TOKYOToyohashi City Museum Art & history, Aichi / The Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, KanagawaGroup
2015Passion - Fan behavior and artBerlin / Kunsthaus Nürnberg, NürnbergGroup
2015OUTDOORWARM Sao Paulo, Sao PauloGroup
2015International PopWalker Art Center, Minneapolis / Dallas Museum of Art, DallGroup
2015Art After Dark Kaleidoscope Pop Up gallery, SingaporeGroup
2015Looking Back / The 9th White Columns Annual White Columns, New YorkGroup
2014Cherry Blossoms Falling in the Evening GloomNANZUKA, TokyoSolo
2014KEIICHI TANAAMISikkema Jenkins & Co., New YorkSolo
2014Death BridgeAISHONANZUKA, HongKongSolo
2014CollagesGALERIE GEBR. LEHMANN, BerlinSolo
2014Clock Work MarilynCorbett vs. Dempsey, ChicagoSolo
2014COLORED NOISE for 8/02/CUBE1,2,Shibuya Hikarie 8/CUBE, TokyoGroup
2014HETA-UMAMusee International des Arts Modestes, SèteGroup
2014MangaroLa Fiche Belle de Mai, MarseilleGroup
2014Puddle, pothole, portalSculptureCenter, New YorkGroup
2014DOMMUNE University of the Arts3331 Arts Chiyoda, TokyoGroup
2014ArchipelagoesMizuma Art Gallery Singapore, SingaporeGroup
2013Kannon of Beauty""Adventures in Beauty WonderlandThe Sephora Meatpacking, New YorkSolo
2013Birth and Death BridgeMizuma Art Gallery Singapore, SingaporeSolo
2013SoloshowKarma international, ZurichSolo
2013KILLER JOE'S (1965-1975)Fondation Speerstra, ApplesSolo
2013Tanaami Tee x 100GALLERY SPEAK FOR, TokyoSolo
2013No More WarKALEIDOSCOPE project space, MilanSolo
2013KILLER JOE'S (1965-1975)NANZUKA, TokyoSolo
2013No More WarSchinkel Pavillon, BerlinSolo
2013Ausweitung der KampfzoneBerlinGroup
2013Animated DreamsTallinnGroup
2013Eyeworks Festival of Experimental AnimationChicagoGroup
2013CutOut Fest 2013QuerétaroGroup
2013KLIK! Amsterdam Animation FestivalAmsterdamGroup
2012Tanaami Tee x 100vaiveat81, TokyoSolo
2012NO More War_Sculpture works in 80'sSTUDIOLO, ZurichSolo
2012Holland Animation Film FestivalUtrechtGroup
2012Vladivostok International Film FestivalVladivostokGroup
2011JAPANCONGGarage Center for Contemporary Culture, MoscowGroup
2011THE 29TH FESTIVAL TOUS COURTSAix-en-ProvenceGroup
2010Wander in The Chaos World - Keiichi Tanaami's Fantastic WorldThe OCT Art & Design Gallery, ShennanSolo
2010Eccentric City - Rise and Fall LASALLE College of the Arts, SingaporeGroup
2010PhunkTanaaMIXArt Seasons, SingaporeGroup
2009KochutenNANZUKA UNDERGROUND, TokyoSolo
2009DREAM EMPIPaul Smith SPACE GALLERY, TokyoGroup
2009Stuttgart Festival of Animated FilmStuttgartGroup
2008DAYTRIPPERArt & Public_Cabinet PH, GenevaSolo
2008Armony showGalerie Gebr.Lehmann Dresden /Berlin, New YorkGroup
2008Art BaselGalerie Gebr.Lehmann   Dresden /Berlin, BaselGroup
2007Rock’n Roll Vol.1Norrkkoping Art Museum, NorrkkopingGroup
2007Rock’n Roll Vol.2Sorlanders Art Museum, NorwayGroup
2006TANAAMISMGinza Graphic Gallery, TokyoSolo
2006Layers of Keiichi TanaamiGallery AUBE, Kyoto University of Art and Design, KyotoSolo
2006Festival de Cinema Japones PortugalGroup
2006Spoltore Ensemble 2005ItalyGroup
2005Keiichi TanaamiTransplant Gallery, New YorkSolo
2005Films of Keiichi Tanaami and Graphic 100the Norwegian International Film Festival, HaugesundSolo
2005Melbourne International Film FestivalMelbourneGroup
2004DISCO UNIVERSITY with Naohiro UkawaKPO Kirin Plaza OsakaSolo
2004TANAAMI’S BEAUTY PARADENaruyama Gallery, TokyoSolo
2004The 50th Oberhausen International Short Film FestivalOberhausenGroup
2004Rotterdom International Film FestivalRotterdomGroup
2003Collage of FLOWERS by Keiichi TanaamiArt Space Eumeria, TokyoSolo
2003Keiichi Tanaami-GET BACKGallery 360°, TokyoSolo
2003Rotterdom International Film FestivalRotterdomGroup
2003Image Forum Festival 2003Park Tower Hall, TokyoGroup
2002Tactile Sensibility of the AgeD’s Gallery, KyotoSolo
2002Keiichi Tanaami 3000 DrawingsGallery 360°, TokyoSolo
2002Opt Mannierism Theater of Light BaTheater Image Forum, TokyoGroup
2002Image Experience MuseumTokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, TokyoGroup
2001Keiichi Tanaami BLOW UPGallery 360°, TokyoSolo
2001Goldfish Exhibition Tokyo International Forum ・ Exhibition space, TSolo
2001VERSUS VOL.3 Keiichi Tanaami VS Naohiro Ukawadepot, TokyoGroup
2000Keiichi Tanaami Graphic Works in the 60’sGallery 360°, TokyoSolo
2000JAGDA Poster Exhibition-DESIGN 2000The Museum of Fine Arts, GifuGroup
2000The 6th Mumbai International DocumentaryAnimation Film Festival, MumbaiGroup
1999OPTICAL SYNSESISYotsuya Image Forum, TokyoGroup
1998Variation by Dry-PointGallery Vivant, TokyoSolo
1998The 28th Finland Tampere International Short Film FestivalTampereGroup
1998Art of the 20th Century; East and WestIkeda 20th Century Museum, ShizuokaGroup
1997Hizikata Tsutsumi – Art and DanceIkeda 20th Century Art Museum, ShizuokaGroup
1996Keiichi Tannami-100 PrintsChukyo University C-Square, NagoyaSolo
1996Prints of the 70sShibuya Shoto Art Museum, TokyoGroup
1996Experiencing Art 1996Sakura City Art Museum, ChibaGroup
1995ResemblingGallery Vivant, TokyoSolo
1995Travel for MemoriesBokushin Gallery, TokyoSolo
1995Many Kinds of FlowersSUNTORY Museum, OsakaGroup
199567 Graphic SharakuShibuya PARCO Gallery, TokyoGroup
1994Works of Print 1967-1994Kawasaki City Museum, KanagawaSolo
1994Keiichi Tanaami's Film-Image of MemoryAV Hall, Kawasaki City Museum, KanagawaSolo
1994History and Perspective of Imaging International Newspaper Hall, SeoulGroup
1994Contemporary Japanese AnimationHigh Museum, GeorgiaGroup
1992The World of Keiichi TanaamiIkeda 20th Century Museum, ShizuokaSolo
1992Aspects of a Small GroupMuramatsu Gallery, TokyoGroup
1992Chiba City’s New Permanent Collection Chiba City Gallery, ChibaGroup
1991SPIRAL FOREST-2Nogizaka Art Hall, TokyoSolo
1991CELEBLATION OF THE FORESTMuramatsu Gallery, TokyoSolo
1991Art is Fun---2Hara Museum Arc, GunmaaGroup
1990Law of the ForestSeibu Hall, ShigaSolo
1990Design Specimen of the Last Dacade-1990Matsuya, TokyoGroup
1990Genealogy of Optical MovieThe Museum of Modern Art, SaitamaGroup