kenya hara at the Japan Foundation (131 Bloor West) to December 8. 416-966-1600. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
japan takes its graphic artists very, very seriously. So seriously that the promotional posters for an industry event like the Takeo Paper World show are enough to launch a young designer into superstardom.
That's what happened when Kenya Hara picked up back-to-back Tokyo Art Directors Club Awards for his 1990 and 91 posters for TPW.
Hara's trademark style consists of formally evocative but meaningless shapes on an essentially white ground, which he then overlays with unexpected textures to get the desired gradations of colour and tone.
These images are transformed from simple elegance to outright brilliance by the subtle games he plays, using -- for example -- photos of washroom graffiti to create the impression of stone.
As a style, it flirts with iconoclasm, and all the more so because he treats traditional graphic form with true reverence.
Hara has developed an international profile through his graphic design work for the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the ad imagery for Issye Miyake's mass market i.m. clothing line (an oversized crow mascot replaces human models) and the upcoming Expo 2005 -- including inspired packing tape that literally crawls with turtles, a ploy that explores what Hara calls "parasite media."