Tomokazu Matsuyama Blends Pop Culture and Art History to Explore His Global Identity

In Another Believer, we see a figure exiting a phone booth, which may recall to some the popular British TV series Doctor Who (1963 – present). The booth is emerging from or sinking into a body of water, surrounded by an exuberant array of blooms, snowflakes, and trees. Matsuyama’s figure appears between worlds, galaxies, and time periods as he steps out into the world, wearing the freshest of outfits, which places him in the 21st century. This grounding in the present is amplified by the array of swimsuit magazines plastered inside the phone booth.

In the background, we find a psychedelic mixture of seasons, including the burst of spring dampened by the falling of snow. The conflicting dualities mirror Matsuyama’s experience of being in an environment, but not of it. Further, it conveys how individuals live with multiple cultures, truths, and time periods, all at the same time.

The roughly eight-foot-tall Another Believer was painstakingly crafted in the artist’s Greenpoint, Brooklyn, studio over the course of three months. Matsuyama’s studio functions like an atelier and features a team of 20 people that work with him across painting, sculpting, and administrative tasks. He likened his studio practice to the kitchen of a chef at a Michelin restaurant, mentoring a sous-chef who will eventually leave to go out on their own. If not for the aid of assistants, each large-scale work, like Another Believer, would easily take a year to complete alone, Matsusyama explained. He treats his studio assistants as apprentices, he explained, rather than mere hired labor.

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