Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer
From December 2, Bonnefanten will present the first exhibition on Shinkichi Tajiri (1923, Los Angeles, California, USA - 2009, Baarlo), designed by his grandchildren Tanéa and Shakuru Tajiri. In 2023, Japanese-American artist Shinkichi Tajiri would have turned 100 years old. This milestone will be celebrated with Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer.
On view: 02.12.2023 - 12.05. 2024. Official opening exhibition: 01.12.2023, 6 pm. Followed by Bonnefanten Free Friday 8.00 - 11.00 pm.
Curators: Tanéa and Shakuru Tajiri, and Paula van den Bosch, senior curator, Bonnefanten.
From December 2, Bonnefanten will present the first exhibition on Shinkichi Tajiri (1923, Los Angeles, California, USA - 2009, Baarlo), designed by his grandchildren Tanéa and Shakuru Tajiri. In 2023, Japanese-American artist Shinkichi Tajiri would have turned 100 years old. This milestone will be celebrated with Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer. Based on Shinkichi's sweeping life story, Tanéa and Shakuru explain the versatile artist's oeuvre. A total of dozens of works from his Warriors, Seeds, Machines, and Knot series are on display at Bonnefanten. The selection is complemented by new, previously unexhibited material from the Tajiris' family archives, as well as anecdotes and works by artist friends and sources of inspiration, such as Isamu Noguchi, Karel Appel, Constant, Lucebert and Julio González.
To properly understand Shinkichi’s work, the exhibition takes visitors back 100 years, to the moment Shinkichi Tajiri was born as the fourth son of Issei immigrants, or the first generation of Japanese immigrants. Growing up in the African-American neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles, Shinkichi showed great ingenuity until 7 December 1941, his eighteenth birthday. That was the day that Japanese forces attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor. This event led to the forced internment of more than 120,000 Japanese and Americans of Japanese descent living on the West Coast, without any form of legal process, imprisoning them in primitive internment camps. Shinkichi and his family were also interned. This experience left deep marks that were later visible in his artistic expressions.
Enlisting in the US Army in 1943 was Shinkichi’s opportunity to escape the concentration camp. In 1944, he suffered severe injuries north of Rome. Until the end of his military service in 1946, he was stationed in various locations in France and Germany before returning to his homeland. Despite his attempts to build a new life, Shinkichi was constantly subjected to the racial consequences of World War II suffered by people of Japanese origin. In 1948, he took the decision to turn his back on the United States permanently and go into self-imposed exile. From one day to the next, he became a ‘restless wanderer’.
Paris held a great appeal for Shinkichi, and he decided to move to this global haven for creatives. Many encounters followed with like-minded people who were all looking for identity and meaning, and inspirational people such as sculptor Zadkine and painter Léger. This combination of artistic and other influences and his traumatic memories of the war yielded innovative work which did not go unnoticed by members of the Dutch CoBrA movement. In 1949, he took part in a group exhibition with them at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Liège in 1951.
In the early 1950s, Shinkichi met artist Ferdi Jansen in Paris. After their time together in Paris and Amsterdam, Shinkichi and Ferdi ultimately chose peace and quiet over city life. In 1962, they made their home at Castle Scheres in Baarlo, Limburg, where their children Giotta and Ryu, and later their grandchildren Tanéa and Shakuru, grew up surrounded by Shinkichi and Ferdi’s impressive and mysterious creations.
Art as a way to process trauma
Shinkichi’s sculptures, films, poems, photographs and paintings are infused with symbols and references to his Japanese and American identity, the break with his homeland, and his experiences in the war. The relationship between all these elements lends artistic, historical and social importance to Shinkichi’s work. For Tanéa and Shakuru’s grandfather, art was a means of survival and a way to cope with trauma.
A personal perspective
Years later, Tanéa (1992) and Shakuru (1994) look back at this unique legacy with gratitude. Putting together the exhibition affords them the opportunity to take another look at their grandfather’s life, and the chance to take pause and reconsider his far-reaching influence on them.
In addition to being a tribute to their father and grandfather, The Restless Wanderer is also an invitation to everyone to engage in dialogue about these current, universal themes of migration and exile. A conversation that fosters encounters, recognition and acknowledgement, the exchange of experiences and insights, regardless of age or origin.
Publication Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer
The exhibition is a collaboration between the Shinkichi Tajiri Estate and Bonnefanten. Unique is the intergenerational way in which the exhibition has been curated by Tanéa and Shakuru, Shinkichi Tajiri's grandchildren. The process of putting together the exhibition Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer is documented in an accompanying publication. The publication is available in both Dutch and English at the Bonnefanten museum shop from December 2. Price: € 24.95, ISBN NL: 9789462625426, EN: 9789462625433.
On the occasion of Shinkichi Tajiri's 100th birthday, the anniversary exhibition A long homecoming: a century of Shinkichi Tajiri will be on display at Museum van Bommel van Dam in Venlo from December 2, 2023 to March 22, 2024. The focus is on Tajiri's life and iconic work during the time when Kasteel Scheres in the northern Limburg town of Baarlo was his place of business and studio. After many wanderings, he found his home here.
This exhibition is made possible by:DOWNLOAD PRESSKIT
Note for press: for more information and images please contact Nina Keuschnigg at firstname.lastname@example.org or +31 (0)6 55232721.
Leading image: Shinkichi Tajiri with grandchildren Shakuru and Tanéa Tajiri at iron foundry Geraedts Baarlo, 2001. Photo: Kim Zwarts.