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Japan Society Announces Hiroki Otsuka as Mangaka Artist-in-Residence

As an artist-in-residence, Otsuka will create an original manga inspired by the work of Utagawa Kuniyoshi. He will also be conducting illustration workshops open to the general public.

In conjunction with the Japan Society’s spring exhibition Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters: Japanese Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection, the Japan Society (NYC) has named visual artist and professional illustrator Hiroki Otsuka as its official mangaka. As an artist-in-residence, Otsuka will create an original manga inspired by the work of Kuniyoshi. He will also be conducting illustration workshops open to the general public.

Here is the official word from the Japan Society:


Otsuka's yet-to-be titled original manga, which begins production on the March 12 opening of Graphic Heroes Magic Monsters, centers on a teenager who comes to Japan Society's exhibition as part of a school group. The student literally gets drawn into the artwork as a Kuniyoshi-inspired warrior and is called on to save New York City from the multitude of monsters marauding throughout Kuniyoshi's prints.

"Kuniyoshi's love of complex narrative, his busy, frenetic style, his powerful characterization, his inventive use of space, and his mass-market appeal all mark him as a grandfather of contemporary manga," says J oe Earle, Director of Japan Society Gallery and organizer of Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters. "We are underlining the parallels between Kuniyoshi’s work and contemporary manga by asking Hiroki Otsuka—an outstanding manga artist living in New York—to serve as our mangaka-in-residence, inspiring visitors by creating his own meta-narrative about Kuniyoshi and his work."

Looks like a good Spring to visit New York.

About Hiroki Otsuka

A professional comic book illustrator since 1994, Brooklyn based Japanese artist/illustrator honed his craft drafting and inking comic book cells for a variety of projects, and illustrated for a number of major Japanese publications through 2004. "I grew up reading manga like all youngsters in Japan, although I was completely obsessed with submerging myself in their realm of imagination," says Otsuka. "Since then, I have devoted a great deal of time studying manga. Through drawing manga, I like to open doors for readers to share my imaginative world. I use personal experiences, or experiences and stories from my friends to inspire my work. I create drawings, paintings, and manga whose underlying themes are entertaining and convey something of the essence of living freely, easily and vividly."


In 2005, Otsuka's focus shifted from graphic to fine arts, working predominantly with traditional sumi ink used in Japanese calligraphy. Otsuka's debut solo show at Brooklyn's Stay Gold Gallery in 2005 prompted The New Yorker to write that his works "push the populist youth quotient through the roof." Since then, his work has appeared in galleries throughout the United States and Japan, and has been featured in international art fairs in New York, Tokyo and Basel, Switzerland. He's been exhibited at major art institutions such as The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (Nothing Moments, 2007) and in academic settings such as Pittsburgh University Art Gallery (Making Faces: Depiction of Women in Japan from Edo to Today, 2009). In 2007, Otsuka was featured in Japan Society’s centennial exhibition Making a Home, curated by Eric C. Shiner, that highlighted33 Japanese contemporary artists living and working in New York. Berlin's Kunstraum Richard Sorge held a major exhibition of Otsuka's paintings and murals in 2009 entitled Everything to More. Most recently, Otsuka provided the integrated illustrations for choreographer Jeremy Wade's critically acclaimed multimedia dance there is no end to more, a Japan Society commission which had its world premiere in New York in December 2009.

Discussing his process, Otsuka says, "I always begin by drawing the pictures on a sketchbook just using a black pen, which is a basic manga technique. As simple as this sounds, so much information can be conveyed with just one line. The spontaneity of lines is my identity. It shows how I have been inspired and mirrors my state of mind and energy flow. Lines are the most significant aspect of my works, even more important than what I draw."