Yasumasa Morimura (1951, Osaka, Japan).
Lives and works in Osaka, Japan.
Yasumasa Morimura is a Japanese appropriation artist that has been working for more than three decades as a conceptual photographer and filmmaker.
Defining himself as a cross between an actor and an artist, Morimura is known for his large-scale self-portraits that are often superimposed on art-historical images. Through extensive use of props, costumes, makeup, and digital manipulation, the artist masterfully transforms himself into recognizable iconic individuals. Morimura has based his works on renowned paintings by Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh and Diego Velázquez, as well as images culled from historical materials, mass media, and popular culture.
The artist’s reinvention of iconic photographs and art historical masterpieces challenges the associations the viewer has with the subjects, while also commenting on Japan’s complex absorption of Western culture. Through his depiction of female stars and characters, Morimura subverts the concept of the “male gaze”; within each image he both challenges the authority of identity and overturns the traditional scope of self-portraiture.
In Morimura’s “Inner Dialogue With Frida Kahlo” he casts himself as the world famous Mexican artist known for her lush, surreal self-portraits:
«As I am being inspired by you, Doña Frida, I drink in what I like to think of as your essence so as to create a Frida of my own, in my own mind’s eye… In that fantastic sphere, the various elements of Doña Frida and myself mix into a muddle, a chemical reaction occurs, creating this imaginary Frida of mine. I wanted to give form to what Doña Frida is to me. Via self-portraiture, that is.”
“A Few Small Nips” features a woman being literally “murdered by life,” as Frida herself felt, murdered both physically by her chronic pain and suffering and emotionally by an affair of Diego Rivera with her sister Cristina. The painting’s theme is based on a newspaper account of a real murder: a man who murdered his girlfriend by stabing her again and again. On the court the murderer claimed: “But I only gave her a few small nips.”
Morimura was nominated for the Hugo Boss Prize in 1996.
His work is a part of numerous prominent collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA, San Francisco), the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA, Chicago), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA, Los Angeles) and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh).