I was really excited about Yoskay Yamamoto’s ‘Homebound’ show from the get-go. A show at Giant Robot 2 is like rush hour, just so much traffic, and Giant Robot’s artists typically have huge followings.
I saw a preview on Instagram and looked forward to seeing what else was there. My partner in crime, frequently right-swiped aristocrat Lindy Kirk, headed there and sauntered around the room while Yoskay stood in the back, circled by what seemed like family members. The thing in the preview was there. So was a musician, a mooney guitarrist wearing a bowler hat.
Still, after a turn about the gallery, I wanted more.
I didn’t realize this. I tried to work it out by convincing Lindy that it was enough. I talked to her about Yoskay’s attention to textural detail, his 35,000 Instagram followers, yadda yadda yadda. Then Lindy sat down and noodled with her phone.
“His art has a romantic feel,” said Eric Nakamura, owner of GR2. “It’s dreamy. It evokes nostalgia and innocence,” he explained.
I abhor the blend of nostalgia and innocence just about as much as a human being can possibly abhor anything. More on that in a minute. But looking around, even though there were different objects hanging out here, all of the artwork felt the same.
The details ceased to differentiate anything. People cited the sphere hanging from the wall, the eyes in one figure, the bowler hat, nodding to Rene Magritte and linking Yoskay’s pop-surrealism with the classic surrealism of your rich grandparents. See here, the nearly-realistic precision with light and soft tonal shifts around the contours in Magritte’s Son of Man, 1946.
The surrealism of yore works best when it’s mingling serenity with dissonance, disparity, and displacement. Yoskay, here, veers the other way and unifies the elements into an anaesthetic palette. Looking around the room and back to the painting in front of me, what I see is a visual lullaby.
And so. When I look around a gallery, before I ask myself ‘would I hang this on my wall,’ I find myself wondering what’s at stake; what kind of risks did the artist take with this.
“I think it’s powerful, the way he’s using pinks,” said Mari Inukai, another artist who visited to see the show. Eric, the owner of GR2, agreed. “He’s not afraid to use pinks and purples,” he said. I still had trouble seeing that as risky. Like, they weren’t shades of pink and purple that sizzled, popped, and otherwise stood out.
People were crowded around Yoskay, and from their conversation it sounded like family members. There never seemed like a good time to interrupt. Lindy, meanwhile, was also sitting around and taking in the vibe of the place. She told me later that there was a noticeable snobbiness to the joint. People didn’t make eye contact when it was obvious that I was trying to start a conversation. People generally didn’t mingle; there was Yoskay chatting with his friends and family, but strangers coming in to see sights didn’t really talk to each other.
One girl, hanging out by the installation in the middle, was talking to her partner. She said “I don’t even care about the artwork any more. I just come here for the spectacle.”