Project 2: Who is Simon Tashimoto?

October 27, 2020

A couple of years ago I came upon some prints in a consignment store that I found interesting. They were smallish abstract geometric prints by an artist named Simon Tashimoto. I wanted to learn more about him but all of my searches only came back with more of his prints for sale from consignment stores around the internet.

I thought it was interesting that an artist could have a relatively robust demand for their work but so little biographical detail. Also the interest in his work seems to come mainly from the mid-century modern interior design trend that these consignment stores tend to lean into.

I was able to find a brief biography that said Tashimoto “broke with tradition” by attending the “Nomeguchi school”. Searches for the artist “Nomeguchi” only turned up references to this same Tashimoto bio.

My initial systems map looked like this:

For my daily practice I would like to do two things: 1. research or journal about a particular branch of the system map and 2. sketch out some geometric abstractions inspired by Tashimoto prints.

Sketches

The sketches turned out to be much easier to generate than the research and lead me down more aesthetic ideations for form. I could see form being a series of prints or a digital representation of the style.

Research

I decided to focus on a different branch of the systems map for daily research.

Practice

Tashimoto’s exploration of a strict grid brings to mind the following Speed Levitch soliloquy.

Did Tashimoto welcome the grid or was he testing its boundaries?

Market

Tashimoto has a relatively robust audience on the internet. You can regularly find a wide variety of his work on eBay and other assorted second hand shops. His signed prints are many and go from anywhere between $200 and $600 each. Despite this presence, any substantiative information about the artist has eluded me.

I was able to uncover an exhibition at Depauw University that included one of his prints. Abstract Traditions: Postwar Japanese Prints included Tashimoto’s print “Columns”

The curator of the exhibition, Craig Hadley, describes the piece thusly:

“Tashimoto’s bold geometric silkscreens – reminiscent of work by
hard-edge painters Karl Benjamin and Frederick Hammersley – is a
radical departure from the softer, organic forms created by postwar
Japanese artists of the 1960s. Columns highlights the artist’s technical
ability to manipulate his chosen medium with exacting precision and
thoughtfulness, while also signaling a departure from the spontaneity
often found in works by earlier sōsaku hanga artists.”

This description lead me to the term sōsaku hanga, which is a movement of Japanese print making with an “art for art’s sake” imperative. This movement began in the early 20th century then was infused with western modernist sensibilities after the 1951 São Paulo Art Biennial.

Biography

For research into the artist himself I decided to reach out to the IMA / ITP librarian. Despite the help of professional a librarian, no new information was obtained about Simon Tashimoto.

The elusiveness of information about the artist and the relative popularity of his prints on the secondary market seem to be in opposition. I would think that some gallerist would have recognized an opportunity to contextualize Tashimoto’s work if only to bump up the price point a tad more.

Japanese Art

My research did yield one interesting new path in the sōsaku hanga movement.

It was a movement grown in opposition to the prevailing Japanese print making tradition of Shin-hanga. Where Shin-hanga maintained traditional separation of labor between artist, carver, printer and publisher; in sōsaku hanga a single artist held complete control over the entire process.

However, other artists involved in this movement bear little resemblance to Tashimoto’s output.