OB: Your, My, Story

3 November–23 December 2021
Your, My, Story
130 Orchard Street
New York, 10002

Your, My, Story is a new exhibition by ob, a young member of the Kaikai Kiki studio known for her delicate, atmospheric paintings portraying girlhood in Japan. Inspired by her upbringing, the artist’s trademark style references manga, anime, video games, and her affection for Western paintings. In her new body of work, she investigates a set of questions that challenge our perception of adolescence.

Born in 1992 in Japan and raised in Kyoto, ob is part of the generation that has utilised social media to build communities for social interaction and broader audiences.

ob, Your, My, Story -Pink- (2021). Oil on canvas. 150 x 150 cm. ©︎2021 ob/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Perrotin.

In Japan, adolescents experiment with ways of expression by utilising social networking services. For ob, social networking was essential for her artistic expression. Viewers would play a significant role for ob, as their evaluation determined the ranking and visibility of the artists presented—but, like most online platforms, it also made it easier to connect among artists and their supporters.

Gaining an interest in acrylic painting since junior high school, she debuted her practice at 18 by organising a virtual exhibition through the pictures-sharing platform pixiv. The exhibition was titled wassyoi, an encouraging word used by Japanese revellers during traditional Japanese festivals, a term used to encourage and show solidarity with others. 

This first online meeting of young artists who had only previously met online proved both successful and inspirational. Ob went on to curate exhibitions in person, one of which Takashi Murakami attended at the 0000 Gallery in Kyoto.

Entering the exhibition at Perrotin, one is invited into ob’s dream world, delineated in pastel colours, in which delicate figures appear to float against complexly structured backgrounds. The artist constructs imaginary landscapes, sometimes reproduced from actual ones, comprised of manga-style flora, silky clouds that flow into the sky, and seemingly flat horizons, which altogether support these large-eyed, questioning creatures.

ob has often associated her creations as different versions of herself and her friends, as young persons’ wandering through adolescence full of uncertainty’ who are still unable to express their thoughts and dreams fully. As ob herself has said, ‘as I get older and face various decisions, … different things will be gained or lost.’

However, the artist describes the more unstable state of early adolescence as having a lot of potentials and a painting motif that allows her to expand her imagination. Their characteristic large, rounded eyes are often the darkest part of the painting, characterised mainly by pastel tones. ob has said that the eyes of her characters are ‘like a tunnel, or the moon…’, leaving a sense of fascinated curiosity and uncertainty. It then is up to the viewer to answer the question these enigmatic characters raise, allowing their imagination to create new stories.

©2021 ob, Kaikai Kiki Co, Perrotin