Inspired by the Bauhaus, American Jazz and the aesthetic tradition of Japan, Ikko Tanaka (1930-2002) remains one of the most influential Japanese graphic designers. The exhibition is dedicated to the theme of the face in the poster oeuvre of this communicator between Japanese culture and the West. The parade of faces gliding past the ambling viewer is akin to a Gallery of Beauties, rendered in radical geometric abstraction, calligraphic expressivity or captured in photographs, emblematic, distorted, as impenetrable mask, surreal, playful … Sublimely seductive or theatrically tantalizing, all of these faces want to catch the viewer’s attention, be it for Noh or Kabuki theatre, exhibitions, communications companies or a collection by fashion designer Issey Miyake.
Born in 1930 in Nara, Tanaka studied at the highly traditional Kyoto City University of Arts – Japan’s oldest art school. After his studies, he initially worked as a pattern designer in the textile industry, then as an exhibition designer, before founding his own studio in Tokyo in 1963. Graphic works by Tanaka were shown at Documenta 3 as early as 1964.
 
His multi-facetted oeuvre ranges from art direction for companies including Seibu, Mazda and Shiseido to book design, typographic experiments and the concept of the no-name-design store Muji. He gained international renown mostly through his posters, designed for cultural events such as theatre shows, dance performances, concerts, festivals and exhibitions, but also for type foundries, communications companies and fashion designers, as well as on environmental and political themes.
 
Ikko Tanaka’s style could be outlined as combining bold abstraction with the balancing of opposites; it is expressive, elegant and powerful. Fellow designer American Ivan Chermayeff dubbed him a “distiller of visual truth”.
 
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
A presentation by Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, starting with Munich Creative Business Week MCBW 2018
March 3, 2018 – June 17, 2018
Ikko Tanaka, The 200th Anniversary of Sharaku, 1995. Foto: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum. © Ikko Tanaka 1995 / licensed by DNPartcom.