Poster: Takeda Cosmetics for Men, Takeda Chemical Industry" 1974. Designed by Tadanori Yokoo. Gift of Sara and Marc Benda. 2009-12-16. 

Odalisque Reconsidered

Tadanori Yokoo is a celebrated Japanese artist for his work in graphic design. Yokoo’s posters constitute a unique style of graphic design that is firmly rooted in Japanese tradition while incorporating Western elements that speak to the increasing globalization of Japanese society in the 1960s and 70s.

Yokoo’s approach to poster design draws upon the Japanese tradition of ukiyo-e, a woodblock printing dating from the late 17th century. Ukiyo-e prints were both commercial advertisements and art objects, characterized by their subject matter – including landscapes and figural illustrations of kabuki, geisha and courtesans – and their flat areas of color. Yokoo’s posters re-imagine this aesthetic, collaging recognizable photographic images onto areas of flat, bright color. Yokoo pulls symbolically loaded images from both Eastern and Western traditions.

Yokoo’s poster advertising Takeda Cosmetics for Men is representative of the artist’s highly original approach to commercial design. The advertising element of the work is not immediately evident; the only clue to the product that is being advertised is located within the arabesque patterns, at the bottom of the poster, where “Takeda for Men” is inscribed on a small label on top of a basket of oil bottles. Hints of what the product itself might be are evident in the repeated form of oil bottles and cosmetics jars throughout the image. Yokoo has collaged the circle of this central image onto an array of arabesque patterns that resemble a carpet. This juxtaposition of Islamic decorative motifs and icons of the Western canon is both a reference to the arabesque patterns that are prevalent in the original painting on which this work is based and an example of Yokoo’s signature coupling of Western and Eastern visual cultures..

Takeda Cosmetics for Men, Takeda Chemical Industry lifts nine figures from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ masterpiece The Turkish Bath in which they lounge in a Turkish bathhouse, and places them in an entirely new setting – outside on a rocky shore. Because the figures were originally depicted indoors, the interplay of light on the women’s bodies is radically different from that of the rocks and water. The process of lithography has allowed the artist to seamlessly transpose the figures into a setting defined by entirely different light and space. The jarring effect of this displacement is amplified by the grafting of an UFO above the heads of the women, which adds a psychedelic element to the already strange image.

Museum Number: 
2009-12-16