The 1964 Tokyo Olympics represented more than just toned athletes and gold medals for Japan. For the first time since the WWII defeat, the world turned its gaze back upon the Land of the Rising Sun. And Japan was intent upon... [more]
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics represented more than just toned athletes and gold medals for Japan. For the first time since the WWII defeat, the world turned its gaze back upon the Land of the Rising Sun. And Japan was intent upon living up to expectations by dazzling its foreign guests with its technological prowess and visual splendor. Of the artists responsible for creating the visual feast, Yusaku Kamekura would become a legend. With his banner-like designs and tightly choreographed poster campaign, Kamekura initiated Japan into the post-war design elite.
Like many artists the world over, Kamekura was influenced by the Modernist innovations that had occurred in Europe. The Bauhaus, Constructivism, the Art Deco posters of A.M. Cassandre -- all exerted a profound influence over Kamekura. Kamekura used these examples to move steadily through the ranks of the industry. He worked as art director for the magazine Nippon and established the influential Japan Advertising Artists Club in 1951.
The Olympics, however, catapulted him to international recognition. He picked and chose from Modernism's grab bag, then underscored these concerns with a Japanese aesthetic. His poster for the Olympics (which won the grand prize from the Ministry of Education) boasts Japan's sun rising triumphantly above European typography. It was a seamless synthesis of the International style with traditional Japanese iconography.
For the Olympic pictograms, Kamekura collaborated with Masaru Katsumie to create a dramatic tension with basic forms. The images are meant to express the perfection and endurance of the athletes. Kamekura created a series of representations at once powerful and direct -- all without using words (a necessity for international events).
His commercial designs are characterized by a strong sense of linear and geometric form. The design for the Taiyo Machine Industry Company is constructed of swirling lines converging at the center of a circle. It is a grand gesture of both focus and eruption, a simultaneous moving inward and outward into the infinite. Kamekura created a symbol whose meaning reaches towards the eye, drawing it into a sharply defined paradigm.
Kamekura has embraced most every aspect of design, from advertising to book design to packaging. Not only did he contribute to rebuilding national pride, he established Japan as one of the premiere international centers of design. For all his innovations, he has earned a nickname that says it all: "The Boss." [show less]