The Post-Conceptual Draftsman
Divorce (Lot 602) is a classic specimen from Gokita Tomoo’s acclaimed and increasingly illustrious oeuvre. The striking abstract-figurative hybrid portrait arouses a commanding ambiance evocative of film noir, darkly resplendent and cryptic in its heady concoction of Pop, Surrealism, Cubism, Neo-Expressionism and Japanese graphic design. Rendered in an arresting grayscale palette with virtuosic chiaroscuro-esque techniques, the painting showcases Gokita’s pristine technical precision across diverse painterly methods such as staggered lines, sharp gradients, spectacular sheens and tonal ranges and bold smears, erasures and gouges. Spotlighting Gokita’s works in a group exhibition review, eminent American critic Roberta Smith’s wrote that Gokita’s mastery of paint “makes black-and-white feel like living colour”.1
The current lot is the largest of Gokita’s canvases ever to appear at auction. An astounding draftsman who honed his skills as a graphic designer in the 1990s, the illustrator-turned-artist made history in 2014 when his first museum retrospective was held at the prestigious Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art near Tokyo—an esteemed institution that normally reserves its galleries for mid-20th Century American masters such as Frank Stella, Mark Rothko and Joseph Cornell.The honour follows Gokita’s sold-out solo show at the renowned Mary Boone Gallery in New York in January 2014 which catapulted the artist onto the global radar. In spite of international acclaim, the artist is notoriously reticent about the conceptual meaning of his work, heightening the uncanny enigmatic aura surrounding his signature nonconformist amorphous abstractions.
 Roberta Smith, "Stranger Town: Invading Genres Breach the Art World’s Porous Borders", The New York Times, March 9, 2005
Gokita Tomoo (b. 1969, Japan) worked as successful illustrator and graphic designer in the 1990s before turning to drawing and painting. During his early days as an artist, the choice of a limited palette was a solution to financial struggles. Gokita’s breakthrough came in 2000 when the Japanese publisher Little More released 3,000 copies of his artist book Lingerie Wrestling which swiftly sold out and became a cult classic. In 2005 New York-based artist Taylor McKimens discovered a copy of Lingerie Wrestling and invited him to take part in a group show in Chelsea. Gokita’s works were extremely well received and initiated gallery interest, leading to a slew of solo shows at New York’s ATM Gallery, Tokyo’s Taka Ishii Gallery and Los Angeles’ Honor Fraser Gallery. In 2014 Gokita held a solo retrospective entitled “The Great Circus” at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Chiba. The artist lives and works in Tokyo.