Born in Tokyo in 1936, Hiraga divided his career between Japan and Europe. His oeuvre reflects the marriage of a contemporary palette with traditional Japanese techniques. The resulting works are exuberant compositions filled with challenging and colorful scenes of imaginary figures, luscious women and mysterious men. Exploring the relationship between the sexes and describing a world laced with erotic joie de vivre, his female protagonists wear extravagant furs, gaudy wigs and colorful stockings on their naked skin, while the men evoke images of a variant form of fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes and late-nineteenth century British gentlemen.
The so-called 'Roaring Twenties' as well as the Dadaist work of Otto Dix's The Skat Players come to mind when examining the different scenes in Hiraga's works. A repetitive, yet carefully executed palette of non-representational colors, forms and proportions creates a unique and complex composition, overflowing with miniscule and elaborate details. While the four scenes in Scene of a Room (Lot 1043) are separated from one another by a grey cross structure, they remain connected through the continuation of various body parts such as arms, legs, torso and a giant rainbow tongue into the proximate grey-rimmed square. Elements of Surrealism found in this work, show ones and again the influence of various European art movements on the artist.
At first, Hiraga's The Elegant Life of Mr. H (Lot 1044) brings to mind folk creatures from traditional Japanese stories, but the bright-pink lipstick kiss marks placed on the female legs in the back as well as the creature's humorously ridiculed appearance put the scene into a modern context, emphasizing Hiraga's ongoing balancing act between his Japanese heritage and modern Western painting techniques. The trend in postwar Japan of moving away from local artistic developments and embracing art forms derived from the international scene finds expression in Hiraga's works. On the other hand, however, the colorful exuberance found in Japanese paintings of the 19th century, as well as,Japan's artistic avant garde of the 50's and 60's, which includes the influential Gutai group, may also have been a source of inspiration for Hiraga.
Throughout his career, Hiraga's work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and Japan. In 2000, shortly before his death, the Hiraga Key Museum was established near his home in Hakone Yumote in honour of his fascinating artistic life.Key Hiraga’s vibrant “Pop” paintings are as fresh today as when they were painted. Combining a contemporary palette with traditional Japanese techniques, Hiraga’s provocative, exuberant canvases explore a world laced with erotic joie de vivre. Born in Tokyo in 1936, Hiraga divided his career between Japan and Europe. Selected for the First Asian Young Artists Exhibition in 1957, his work created a sensation amongst Japanese and International critics. In 1964 he was awarded the New Artist Prize at the National Exhibition, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum and also was granted the Grand Prix to study in Paris.
Lauded by William Lieberman, curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, his work was added to the museum's collection and in 1965 included in the ground breaking exhibition New Japanese Painting and Sculpture which toured eight US museums between 1965 and 1967. Throughout his career, Hiraga’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and Japan. In 2000, shortly before his death, the Hiraga Key Museum was established near his home in Hakone Yumote in honour of this fascinating artist’s life work.
The Mayor Gallery will be exhibiting a selection of Hiraga’s work from the 1960s and 1970s. An illustrated catalogue will accompany the show.