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Friday, July 10, 2009

Finding death in logos

Special to The Japan Times

Brass knuckles dangle near her waist, while a tiny feather decorates her miniature top hat. But her face is obscured and imprisoned by a giant, striped bow. Who is this? She is the subject of "Cadavre Exquis 4," one of the illustrations by well- respected Paris-based illustrator Jules Julien currently on exhibition at Diesel Denim Gallery Aoyama.

News photo
"Cadavres Exquis" is held in Tokyo until Aug. 2.

This gallery, with its foot in the fashion world, seems well suited for Julien's work, which deals with conflicts involving individual and community identity. The exhibition's title, "Cadavres Exquis," translates to exquisite corpses, and these words seem quite appropriate when first walking into the gallery, where a series of seven "Cadavres Exquis" digital drawings command your attention.

Like "Cadavre Exquis 4," each of the portraits in the series features a silhouette-like figure atop a sterile, pale pink background. The black drawings seem simple because of their clean lines and clear designs, but the people in them are contorted abstractions due to their obscured features. Each work is exquisite because of its surgical precision, but they all feel as lifeless as corporate logos.

Julien seems to enjoy exploring the lack of life in the corporate logo. This is made explicit in two of his other works on display, called "Beijing 08." This title is shared by two illustrations: One displays a boy's head with the familiar Olympic rings (all filled in with black) in place of his eyes, and the other contains 24 boys similarly blinded by various corporate logos, like those of Nike and Apple.

Nevertheless, the exhibition still offers humanity in such works as "Elliot," "Roger," "Chez" and "Nick." They look like the same person with the same gaping mouth and closed eyes, but each portrait presents a slightly altered facial expression that shows this illustrator is comfortable dealing with "life" as well as that which is "lifeless."

"Cadavres Exquis" will be at Diesel Denim Gallery Aoyama until Aug. 2. Admission is free. See www.diesel.co.jp/denimgallery for details.

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