Hiro Kurata Plays the Right Game

Japanese artist, Hiro Kurata recently returned to Japan to introduce his latest exhibition, “Play the Right Game” at Gallery Common. Hiro and I met at his Joshua Liner Gallery exhibition in NY a few years back, and I was struck by the melding of cultural icons shared between Japanese and American influences.

Hiro’s narrative on the surface is composed of oddly familiar, mythological heroes challenged with natural disaster, political discontent and the immediacy of technological delivery. Reverberating patterns interact with the acrylic painted figures and the brightly colored landscape compelling the viewer to interact and move with the piece, edge to edge.

Hiro Kurata, like many of his countrymen, is deeply impacted by the Tohoku, Miyagi and Fukushima earthquakes and the events that continue to challenge the Japanese people to this day. Hiro took a moment to share his thoughts, chat about his latest exhibition featuring fifteen paintings and his emotional return to Japan.

mM : How does it feel to return to Japan and exhibit there? Is your family and friends that live in Japan doing ok and what is their feeling since the accident?

HIRO : I am truly happy to be back here in Tokyo and show my new work here. It is my first time being back in Japan after the 311 (Japan Quake) and was curious to see and feel how it changed after the quake. It's been 4 months, and the biggest change I can feel here in Tokyo is in the use of Lights. I have never seen Tokyo this dark, and it really feels good. People are paying more attention about their personal use of electricity and incorporating it into their lives to create immediate change. I feel like people are united more than before. I know that Fukushima, Miyagi area remains in horrible conditions, and the Capital Tokyo seems like it is starting to forget the incident. But to see the Bright Neon City half of its typical brightness, I feel that the Japanese people are still affected by the disaster and will continue for some time. Myself, I have changed after the 311, and I feel closer to the people I care about more than ever. Of course, my family, friends and the people. I am truly happy to have a chance to have a show back here. I am also running this website awakeafterquake.com a showcase of artists work after the quake.

mM : I love the painterly stores in your new work and it looks like your approach is with a renewed sense of freedom. Talk a bit about the transformation and this new body of work.

HIRO : Yes, I think my body of work is moving more painterly rather than relying on drawing with color. I am trying to explore a larger range of expression and hopefully it will keep on changing. I hope that my method will always keep on developing and include a familiar motif and subjects.

mM: I love the constant balance between east and west culture—baseball, sumo, and the landscape. Describe how these worlds collide in your new work and how they are integrated?

HIRO : Thank you! I feel like this mix of culture thing is appearing on the canvas pretty naturally. Japan had a very unique culture before the war, but after the war we were really affected by the Western culture. Growing up in Tokyo and also in the United States, I can’t differentiate what part of me came from which culture. So my intention is not to search or define the origin of the culture, but just use the motifs of baseball sluggers and sumo wrestlers to narrate my own unique story—stories about modern heroism. It’s the fall of the traditional heroism and rise of a new figure, which is in each of us. I believe that if we each play the “Right Game” we can circulate within our world better.

Kind thanks to Hiro Kurata for taking time out and celebrate his exhibit, “Play the Right Game.” Good fortunes to you and your family. We wish you all good thoughts. For more information and the inspired work of Hiro Kurata, please visit here or check out pics from the exhibition here.

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