03.03.2018 – 15.07.2018

Ikko Tanaka: Faces

View of the exhibition, Ikko Tanaka: Faces. Posters, 2018.
Graphic: Tetsuya Ohta, Tokio Photo: Die Neue Sammlung (A. Laurenzo)

About the Exhibition

Inspired by the Bauhaus, jazz and American graphic design, Ikko Tanaka (1930-2002) remains one of the most influential Japanese designers. Deeply rooted in Japanese aesthetic traditions, he aimed to translate them and make them fertile for the present age.

The exhibition is dedicated to the theme of the face in the poster oeuvre of Tanaka, who always saw himself as a mediator between Japanese culture and the west.

The parade of faces gliding past the ambling viewer is akin to a Gallery of Beauties, rendered in geometric abstraction, calligraphic expressivity or captured in photographs, as impenetrable mask, distorted, emblematic, surreal, playful … With noblesse, sublimely seductive or tantalizing, all of these faces want to catch the viewer’s attention, be it for theatre and dance, exhibitions, festivals, communications companies, cosmetic firms or fashion designers – and, except for a very few exceptions, the faces are all Japanese.

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 graphic design studio in Tokyo in 1963. Graphic works by Tanaka were shown at Documenta 3 as early as 1964. His multi-facetted and highly decorated oeuvre ranges from art direction for companies including Seibu, Mazda, Issey Miyake and Shiseido to book design, logos, typographic experiments and the concept of the no-name-design store Muji. He gained international renown mostly through his posters, designed for cultural events, but also for type foundries, printing companies, magazines, architects, etc.
Ikko Tanaka’s style could be outlined as combining bold abstraction with the balancing of opposites; it is deceptively simple, expressive, elegant and powerful. Fellow designer American Ivan Chermayeff dubbed him a “distiller of visual truth”.
Posters from the collection of Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum and DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion, Tokyo.
A presentation by Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum –, starting at the beginning of MCBW Munich Creative Business Week 2018.

Poster, white face of an Asian woman with red eyes and lips on a red background, flanked on the left and right by Japanese characters on rectangular slips of paper arranged like garlands.
Ikko Tanaka, Poster, The 28th Sankei Kanze Noh Performance, 1981, silkscreen, of the exhibition, Ikko Tanaka: Faces. Posters, 2018.
© Ikko Tanaka 1981 / licensed by DNPartcom, Photo: Archive Die Neue Sammlung
Photography of Ikko Tanaka in his studio, probably around 1970
Ikko Tanaka in his studio, probably around 1970, of the exhibition, Ikko Tanaka: Faces. Posters, 2018.
Photo: unknown

Curated by:

Corinna Roesner

Supported by:

DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion, Tokyo