Lot 1106
  • 1106

TOMOO GOKITA | Secret Gesture

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 HKD
2,375,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Gokita Tomoo
  • Secret Gesture
  • acrylic gouache, charcoal and gesso on canvas
  • 227.5 by 181.5 cm.   89½ by 71½ in.
signed, titled and dated 2013 on the reverse


Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Europe
Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Tomoo Gokita, January - March 2014

Catalogue Note

All over these paintings the strange leaks out of the familiar, as frankly as white and black blend in gray.

Brian Droitcour

A classic portrait from Tomoo Gokita’s acclaimed grey-scale oeuvre, the towering Secret Gesture arouses an instantly arresting ambiance of film noir – resplendent, yet haunting and cryptic in its heady concoction of Pop, Surrealism, Cubism, Neo-Expressionism and Japanese graphic design. Created in 2013, Secret Gesture showcases Gokita’s technical precision across diverse painterly methods such as staggered lines, spectacular sheens, smears, and erasures. Straddling the abstract and the figurative, Gokita’s singular stylized aesthetic is reminiscent of visual languages spanning graphic design, calligraphy, and cutouts from vintage postcards and magazines. In acclaimed critic Roberta Smith’s words: “Mr. Gokita’s vocabulary barrels across illustration, pornography, abstraction, children’s drawing, calligraphy and sign-painting, with a perfect control, velvety surfaces and tonal range that makes black-and-white feel like living color makes black-and-white feel like living colour” (Roberta Smith, ‘Stranger Town: Invading Genres Breach the Art World’s Porous Borders’, The New York Times, March 9, 2005).

Gokita worked as a 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, the New York-based artist Taylor McKimens discovered a copy of Lingerie Wrestling and invited Gokita 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 and critical acclaim that launched him into the New York art world. Inspired by his former career as a graphic designer in the fashion and music industry, Gokita’s aesthetic culls found imagery from 1970s Playboy magazines, pin-up posters, vintage post cards, record sleeves, classic film stills and other reference points appropriated from Japanese and Western popular culture and marginal counterculture. Many of these early paintings utilized a foundation in pencil and ink sketches, as the artist “still loves drawing, which he finds ‘relaxing’ […] But over time Gokita […] upended his art-making process by painting freely without the aid of any preliminary drawings” (Elaine Ng, “One Thousand Shades of Gray: Tomoo Gokita”, ArtAsiaPacific, July-August 2015).

One of Gokita’s most important compositional strategies is the facial obscuration of his subjects via varying degrees of smudges, scrawls and swirls. In the artist’s own words, the obscuring of faces might reveal a kind of transformational desire “to hide a face and to become a different character”, which is perhaps symbolized by African tribal masks (the artist cited in interview with Steven Cox, 2013, Blum and Poe website, online). Such a tendency can be noted as early as 2008; by crossing, smearing or mutilating facial features, Gokita frustrates the viewer’s gaze and asserts a critical distance between the voyeuristic subject and object. While the luscious canvas surface and seductive forms beckons the viewer’s gaze, Gokita’s manipulation of shapes and forms denies deeper engagement, keeping the viewer at bay; while at the same time electrifying the canvas with violence and mystery. Such a phenomenon is reminiscent of Gerhard Richter’s late-1960s blurred photorealist works, which likewise obscured found imagery. Gokita’s aesthetic also echoes that of Francis Bacon’s psychologically charged faceless screaming popes from the 1950s. Executed with authoritative poise and confidence, the full-bosomed masked sitter in Secret Gesture conjures a vision that is at once grotesque yet alluring, unsettling yet compelling; ranking amongst the best and most iconic of Gokita’s oeuvre, she entices us into an otherworldly realm of fantasy and intrigue.