NANZUKA Underground, Tokyo // February 11, 2023 – March 12, 2023
NANZUKA is pleased to present Soldier Of Fortune, a solo exhibition of new works by American artist Todd James at NANZUKA UNDERGROUND. This exhibition, entitled Soldier of Fortune, marks the artist’s fourth solo presentation at the gallery, his first since his last show in Tokyo four years ago.
Todd James is a celebrated New York artist from the generation following Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rammellzee, Lee Quinones and Kenny Scharf. A style leader in multiple mediums over a period of decades, James’ work has been recognized since his teenage years writing the moniker REAS. Within the context of street pop, James has collaborated with artists such as Kaws, Barry Mcgee, and Espo (Stephen Powers), as well as creating commercial works in collaboration with Beastie Boys, Iggy Pop, Eminem, Pharrell Williams and other cultural icons, underscoring the tremendous popularity of his work. James, along with Barry Mcgee and Espo, is a co-creator of Street Market, a major work of the post-graffiti movement that debuted at Deitch Projects in New York City in 2000.
The Street Market installation depicted an entire New York City block, including a fully stocked bodega and a car service. The clamoring urban signage and graffiti was on a massive, real life scale. Street Market was shown at the US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2001, and later traveled as far as the Parco Museum in Tokyo, giving rise to a worldwide sensation. A re-creation of Street Market was the central installation of the LA MOCA’s record breaking Art in the Street exhibition a decade later. In 2015, James’ work was once again featured at the Venice Biennale. In “The Bridges Of Graffiti,” one of the 2015 Biennale’s official exhibitions, James’ work Vandal’s Bedroom was exhibited to great acclaim, and the installation subsequently traveled to New York, London, Madrid, Copenhagen and Los Angeles. James continues to receive increasing international attention, in recent years emerging as one of the leading artists to take part in “Beyond the Streets,” a traveling special exhibition which embodies the rising global momentum of street art, currently opening in London.
This exhibition, Soldier of Fortune, is centered around a new bronze sculpture entitled “Pentagon Pile Up”. This work, which is James’ first large-scale sculptural work, integrates jet fighters and tanks (armored fighting vehicles) that have lost their combat function. The war machines have melted and fused together in a last gasp hoping to fight another day. They are deflated and exhausted, put out and squished like a Claus Oldenburg cigarette. This tank totem pole pile-up is a warning, perhaps, of the mental and physical toll of warmongering. Born out of years of pumped up media war porn, “Pentagon Pile Up” serves as an incisive cartoon critique of the military industrial complex.
The exhibition also showcases paintings depicting tanks and military themes that have appeared in James’ work for decades. In other paintings, psychedelic snipers in neon camouflage scout out on the frontier of reality. With a recent return to spray paint on canvas, James unabashedly celebrates old mediums in a new context. Also included in the exhibition are a selection of small works on paper, and a limited-edition miniature work of “Pentagon Pile Up” will also be released at NANZUKA Online Store.
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