Koichi Enomoto: Against the day

December 10, 2022 - January 21, 2023

Nonaka-Hill is delighted to present Against the day, paintings by Koichi Enomoto and his first solo exhibition outside of Japan. Enomoto's paintings are distinguished by their maximal compositions that hold no space, literally and figuratively, between reality and fantasy, nature and technology, the pop-cultural and the personal. As an expert practitioner of manga, Enomoto pairs exacting draughtsmanship with highly modeled forms in a collage-like, quasi-digital space. Across its backgrounds are patterns interlaced with teeming cityscapes over which manga youths commingle with birds, dogs, reptiles, fast food, and other motifs. In such density, Enomoto mounts an ongoing narrative of obsessions in a trans-dimensional world.


Belying their vitality, a certain romantic nihilism emanates from Enomoto's paintings. He devotedly pairs elements of nature and culture on a collision course that cannot be reconciled. Depictions of such fatalism spiral technology destroying humanism and individualism destroying the collective. But his idealized manga youths, as if part of a tight-knit street gang, appear to seek no meaning or comfort in this predicament, and thus only experience pleasure or wonder, or at worst, ambivalence. They are avatars indifferent to strife, accompanied by parrots, owls, pigeons, and dogs, joyfully constellating without boundaries or hierarchies. Horror vaccui appears to belie this vision of solidarity, at least in his most heaving paintings (he has been known to paint upward-slanting stripes on their sides to release them from gravity), in which he ardently embellishes every square inch, as if to prevent the dread of globalism from seeping through their surfaces. Yet interchangeable imagery from the East and West finds itself in Enomoto's matrix, bouncing their mutual refractions into his manga youths' worldview.

Case in point: in Taxi Driver, 2022, eponymously titled after the classic film's anti-hero character (a reflection of our times?...), we see two youths mimicking the style of its two main characters, Travis and Iris. Armed with a full spread of fast food, they are in reverie while flanked by their heroes in floating film stills. The two youths blend into an elaborate patterning, some which harking back to early and late modernist tropes of abstraction. It is a space where trans-cultural objects of fascination and fantasy happily coalesce. In other paintings, manga youths pose like odalisques or subtly resemble the uncanniness of Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (other more direct Picasso references can be found in other works), but reincarnated as manga consumers of food and fun. 


In Eternity, 2022, we see the only naturalistic figure in the exhibition turned away from us. She's wearing a Mondrian hair tie, pondering a sublime sprawling metropolis. The owls, parrots and pigeons that surround her stare back at the viewer, as if to reverse the object of contemplation. Such are the shifting registers that subtly alter the exuberant tonality of Enomoto's paintings upon closer inspection. In other works, we see realistic depictions of human hearts and arteries doubling as ornamentation behind the nonchalance of animals and youths. This tonality of joy and lust for life, even with its undertones of romantic nihilism, was embodied by Enomoto's contribution to a group exhibition at Nonaka-Hill last year during the height of the pandemic. His painting's depiction of love, fun, and reckless abandon was a welcome elixir to that moment in time. The latter half of the exhibition's title, Natsuyasumi: In the Beginning Was Love, mirrored the title of his painting.


Koichi Enomoto was born in Osaka, Japan in 1977 and lives and works out of Tokyo, Japan. He has held numerous solo exhibitions at Taro Nasu Gallery, Tokyo (2022, 2017, 2014, 2011) and hiromiyoshii, Tokyo (2007, 2006, 2004). Group exhibitions include Natsuyasumi: In the Beginning was Love at Nonaka-Hill, Los Angeles (2021); FLOWERS & BIRDS at Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo (2021); Roppongi Crossings 2019: Connexions, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2019); Light/Electricity/God: Thunderbolts & Art, Gumma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi, Gumna, Japan (2017); The Way of Painting, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo (2014); Portrait Session, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima (2007); After the Reality, Deitch Projects, New York (2006). 

Installation Views