Japanese businessmen are called salarymen in Japan and for years they’ve been the butt of jokes. Younger generations ridicule their corporate obedience and lack of independence. And they’re an easy target because they don’t fight back. They just quietly take the abuse.
And so it’s not easy being a salaryman, or their female counterpart, the OL (office lady). They work long hours, are constantly forced to apologize for mistakes that may or may not be their own, and fairly often end up passed out on the streets of Tokyo after rounds of drinking with their boss and coworkers. And yet they are the quiet force behind Japan – laborers carrying the world’s third largest economy on their shoulders.
Hiroaki Ito is a salaryman himself and in his spare time has dedicated the last 5 years to painting the trials and tribulations of Japan’s workforce. One of his signature motifs is the apologizing salaryman and women, with several of his paintings depicting the various levels of apology all the way to the most extreme: the dogeza (hands and knees on the ground, head lowered to the floor).
Hiroaki Ito’s realistic paintings that capture the plight of the salaryman are currently on display in New York at hpgrp gallery. They’re part of the group exhibition “Tengai 3.0” on view through November 19, 2016.