Japanese artist Haroshi is a self-taught sculptor whose subculture-inspired practice effortlessly straddles spheres of pop culture and fine art.
Haroshi became famous for multicoloured wooden sculptures made from recycled skateboards, taking the form of toy-like alien figurines as well as body parts, animals and household objects. The works are united by the colourful concentric patterns created by his signature technique, where stacks of skateboards are glued together before being cut, carved, painted and polished by hand.
- Tokyo Pop Underground, group show at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, New York, 2020
- Art Basel, sold out booth with NANZUKA, Miami Beach, 2018
- Rise Above, solo show at StolenSpace Gallery, London, 2017
- Wait What, solo show at HHH Gallery, Tokyo, 2015
- Still Pushing Despite the Odds, solo show at Jonathan Levine Gallery, New York, 2015
- Brand collaborations including Nike, Eastpak, Uniqlo, BE@RBRICK and Burton Snowboards.
The finished results evoke Japanese wood-carving traditions, such as Inami, as well as the work of KAWS, Jeff Koons and other contemporary pop artists. With brand collaborations including Nike and Apple, as well as a host of high profile fans — skate icon Tony Hawk and Nike CEO Mark Parker amongst them — Haroshi is an artist who occupies a covetable position at the intersection of fine art and pop culture.
Mosh Pit (2019) is a cacophony of texture and colour — an Abstract Expressionist painting in disguise. From a distance the large, square wall-work resembles the gestural style of painters such as Mary Abbott and Lee Krasner, but moving closer it becomes apparent that the work is not painted, but instead composed of Haroshi’s trademark material: skateboards.
Each board fights for a place in the composition, creating a complex, layered texture. This fight, however, is not necessarily an internal struggle, but instead embodies a collective ethos in skate subculture — one of resistance. In the same way that a mosh pit transforms physical aggression into collective catharsis, Haroshi’s ‘painting’ represents the adrenaline highs of dangerous risks, and the joys of taking them with others.
The unseen is also an important part of Haroshi’s approach, with his sculptures often incorporating a symbolic gesture inspired by the ancient Japanese sculptor, Unkei. In 12th and 13th century Japan, during The Kamakura Period, Unkei was an important artistic figure who made sculptures of Buddha. Inside each sculpture he placed a crystal ball to represent Buddha’s soul, and by extension the duality of inner and outer self. Haroshi homages this idea with small pieces of scrap metal hidden in the centres of his sculptures. While these ‘souls’ are not visible in the final work, their existence speaks to the spirit that lives within his process and materials.
The scratches and scrapes that scar Haroshi’s signature medium — skateboards — carry the physical stories of their previous owners in tandem with the immaterial essence of counter-culture and community.
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