Hammer Projects: Oliver Payne and Keiichi Tanaami

  • This is a past exhibition

A series of collaborative works by artists Oliver Payne and Keiichi Tanaami represents a world populated by Japanese idols, monsters, and ancient deities set amid icons from popular Japanese “bullet hell” arcade games. 

In a suite of collages, Payne and Tanaami merge their distinct artistic sensibilities with histories of desire and consumption into a single hallucinatory fantasy. As a progenitor of Japanese Pop art in the late 1960s, Tanaami has been an influential figure in postwar Japan, impacting the ways in which many artists, including Payne, consider their work in relation to forms of popular culture. In particular, Payne focuses on characteristics of video game culture that are analogous to broader social and philosophical concepts. Thus, the collaboration reflects a wider cultural exchange of ideas that Tanaami—as part of an international pop movement—has played an instrumental role in developing.

This presentation marks the first collaboration between the artists. As a true fan, and an artist who organizes his practice through the logic of fandom, Payne holds Tanaami’s work in high regard. Their process began with a series of drawings that Tanaami executed, which became the groundwork for Payne’s meticulous application of bullet hell stickers. The collages bring together two disparate senses of pictorial space and seek to approximate the visual logic of video games. As a recurring theme in his work, Payne considers the processes of art viewership to be analogous to how a player might identify with a given screen.

Much like a kaleidoscopic curtain of distractions in a classic arcade game, the stickers become a scrim through which Tanaami’s drawn figures reveal themselves. The viewer’s eye must, therefore, navigate each image, deciphering the seemingly chaotic array of projectiles, bombs, and other forms of ballistic assault. As much as these works presume a viewing scenario that is upright, horizontal, and wallbound, they are also meant to be read from the orientation of a gamer, who identifies with an avatar at the bottom of a screen as it battles its way upward to the objective of victory.

Hammer Projects: Oliver Payne and Keiichi Tanaami is organized by Aram Moshayedi, curator.


Oliver Payne (b. 1977, London) lives and works in Los Angeles. As a duo with Nick Relph, his work has been shown internationally at such venues as Serpentine Gallery, London; Kunsthalle Zurich; and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York; NANZUKA, Tokyo and Hong Kong; STUDIOLO, Zurich; and Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan.

Keiichi Tanaami (b. 1936, Tokyo) is one of the most influential Pop artists of postwar Japan. He studied graphic design, worked with the Japanese neo-Dadaist Ushio Shinohara, and collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg and Michel Tapié during their visits in Japan. In 1969 he visited Andy Warhol in his Factory in New York and was very inspired by Warhol’s strategy of shifting commercial working practice into art production; he subsequently adopted the hybrid role of artist and commercial graphic designer. He has illustrated record covers for The Monkees, Jefferson Airplane, and more. In 1975 he was announced as the first art director for the Japanese Playboy.

Hammer Projects is presented in memory of Tom Slaughter and with support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Hammer Projects is made possible by a gift from Hope Warschaw and John Law. Generous support is also provided by Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy. Additional support is provided by Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley.

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