Yoshitaka Amano solo show

An art exhibition may not be the standard setting for the type of fanfare associated with sci-fi conventions. Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano, who gained attention designing characters for the video game "Final Fantasy," appears to have earned this brand of fan appreciation with a body of work that reaches across several genres, including anime, video games, illustrations and paintings.

Admirers of Amano's work arrived at the recent opening of "Deva Loka" (the place where the gods exist in Indian religions) at LeBasse Projects clad in full regalia, dressed as newly unveiled characters as well as past favorites. His first solo show in Southern California in nearly a decade consists of 13 pieces created over the past two years.

"It's an ode to his love for American pop culture, specifically the automobile," said Beau Basse, owner of the Culver City gallery.

Each piece was painted on a custom-made canvas of aluminum panels with a combination of acrylic and metallic automobile paint. He finished them off with a clear, high-gloss coating at a luxury auto detailer.

Amano returns to his anime roots, which began with the original "Speed Racer" franchise, his first paid project. Most noteworthy is "Heroes," a pair of 80-by-40-inch paintings, and "Swan," a throwback to the female heroine in the "Gatchaman" series. Evident in his large scale portraits are the sleek lines, vibrant colors and oversized, wide-set eyes, the signature style of classic anime.

Born in Shizuoka, Amano, 57, cites Western comics as his artistic roots but was also fascinated by the psychedelic pop art of Peter Max. His studies were focused on European Art Nouveau and ancient Japanese woodblock printing of Ukiyo-e.

He frequently collaborates with fantasy writers, including a collection of drawings for Hideyuki Kikuchi's "Vampire Hunter D," a series of Japanese novels and subsequent films. He also created illustrations for comic writer and novelist Neil Gaiman on "Sandman: The Dream Hunters."

A retrospective of Amano's work "From Gatchaman to Deva Loka -- The Legend Continues," concludes today at MOCA Taipei. The "Deva Loka" show, which premiered last August at the opening of the New People venue in San Francisco, will be on display through Saturday.


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