with Tim Okamura
Marked with visible brushstrokes and drips of paint, the portraits of Tim Okamura (previously) blend realistic portrayals of his subjects with the fervent, unrestrained qualities of street art. The Japanese-Canadian artist, who recently moved his studio from Brooklyn to Queens, centers his practice around storytelling and honing in on the distinctive energies of those he paints.
Much of Okamura’s portraiture develops in series, whether as the Healthcare Heroes collection devoted to the nurses and doctors working tirelessly throughout the pandemic or the commanding figures of the ongoing Women Warriors—many of these works will be on view as a solo exhibition in September of 2023 at Pittsburgh’s August Wilson African American Cultural Center. Rendered primarily in oil with the occasional acrylic or spray paint addition, the pieces capture the raw nature of Okamura’s process and the distinctive, powerful presence of his subjects.
If you’re in Los Angeles, visit the Academy Museum to view the artist’s portrait of the late writer Toni Morrison. Otherwise, find more of his paintings on his site and Instagram, and browse limited-edition prints in his shop.
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In his portraits of women, Brooklyn-based painter Tim Okamura explores the human relationship to identity. His powerful works largely feature a single black woman in an exceptionally strong pose, with some pieces including natural elements like butterflies and rodents and others using graffiti reminiscent of city landscapes. Originally from Canada, Okamura “investigates identity, the urban environment, and contemporary iconography through a unique method of painting—one that combines an essentially academic approach to the figure with collage, spray paint and mixed media.” In an interview with Nailed, the artist spoke about why he began spotlighting people who are often underrepresented in art, saying he wanted a way to learn about those different from him and to question his conceptions of his own identity.
With art—you come to realize—it’s not just about the work, it just doesn’t end there but, who made it. Sometimes it doesn’t always line up as the viewer imagined. That part of my work I didn’t intend to be conceptual, but it has challenged people’s ideas of who can represent who through art. People can quickly sense if artwork is from a place of authenticity or not—my messages are positive and so are my representations and this is a celebration of my community.
Several recent works by Okamura are currently on view in the group exhibition Still I Rise at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art through May 25, 2020. Find the artist’s available portraits on Artsy, and follow him on Instagram.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.