With direct simplicity that relies on the recognition of an enigmatic image, Goro Kadoi captures attention. He is a Pop Japanese presence. With a dual discipline of music (he had a band and performed in NYC) and visual art, he takes advantage of his 'other-ness' with a piquant rendition of the hip-ness of modern Japan. He has invented a character, a unisex, simple being in a blue robe. There is just enough oddness in the makeup of his line drawn robed being to arouse curiosity as to the origin. Many possibilities come to mind - characters of Japanese comics, small and inexpensive toys, logos, graffiti and then there are the ancient associations - Shinto shrines, votive figures, coarse woodblock characters, or kabuki theater. The flat application of paint seems to veer towards a manufactured or screen printed look and yet the tremulous shading and line, with the odd mistake covered by impasto white in the background belies a slick reading. This brings the perception back to simplicity, not for the sake of dampening the human touch, but as a means to cutting through to the quick of iconography.
The woven black lines in some of the backgrounds have Japanese textile associations. The small white shape at the bottom of the figure, seen through what might be an opening in a blue robe, looks like a white bound foot contained within a clean black line. The white face resembles the powdered visage of a geisha. Dots or short dashes form the oriental eyes. The character, a combination of shapes, forms a figure much as the combined brush strokes of a Japanese character form the word. There are vestiges of pencil for the placement of the ink lines and sometimes there is a discrepancy as if in the application of the brush stroke a more precise rendition of the character was discovered. There is a unique individuality to each character despite the sameness and 'smurf'-like cartoon handling.
Deconstructing the Kadoi figures really leaves no clue as to their identity or origin. The exercise, instead, illustrates the fact that some images override their origins or associations and enter our pantheon of visual icons with a prescience that is unavoidably secure, like the birth of a new visual species.
Copyright © 2007, Julie Oakes