Kenzo Minami is a man of many ideas. Ask him a question about his work and you’ll get a 20-minute answer that ends with Minami’s description of the final scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 film Eclipse. But therein lies the genius of the enigmatic, all-over-the-place designer.
And maybe that’s why his current retrospective “Mass Production” at hpgrp gallery feels so timely. It is indeed the first time Minami’s extensive, eclectic body of work, which includes a MoMA inducted Dunny toy of his model, Reebok sneakers, Eastpak carry-on luggage and a $5000 Affinity track bike, is being showcased together. And headlining the show is over 100 t-shirts (only a fraction of the work) from the Kenzo Minami apparel line, which had a healthy 9-year run and ended in 2011. And now he is in the midst of considering to reboot the line.
We caught up with Minami on site to discuss his current show.
Kenzo Minami: Mass Production
hpgrp gallery, New York
now extended through December 21, 2013
The apparel line was essential in not only defining who Minami was, but also delivering his products to people who typically would never have any exposure to him. Minami got a kick-start when major retailers like Barneys in New York and Isetan in Tokyo bought his clothing. “There is a huge gap there,” says Minami, explaining how the simple act of creating a garment catapulted his exposure from being confined to graphic design nerds all the way to teenagers across Japan. “This was how I opened a portal.”
The product designer-turned graphic designer got his start in television but eventually transitioned into the role of freelance as his side projects became main projects. You can read more about him in our studio visit, conducted earlier this year.
The world can be more amazing and fun if we just look closer
Stepping into the room of t-shirts hanging from above is like stepping into the head of Minami himself. Each t-shirt is bold and dynamic in its own right. And the graphic quality is enough to quench the thirst of fashionistas and graphic design aficionados alike. But dig a little deeper and an oasis of tidbits, tricks and inside jokes will reveal themselves. Prime numbers, Nostradamus, the music of John Cage, the films of Jon Luc Godard, the essays of Tristan Tzara, the music of the Bee Gees – these are just some of the many themes that are sitting, waiting to be uncovered.
It is perhaps key to understanding Minami’s work and the hopes and wishes he imbeds in every piece produces. “There is an infinite amount of amazing, fun information out there and it’s so fun to discover it,” Minami says, excitedly. “I feel like people are missing out. The world can be more amazing and fun if we just look closer.”