Chicago Shimpo
Strangely Familiar World of Alienation: Art of Tetsuya Ishida Comes to Chicago

• The first U.S. retrospective exhibition of Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishida will open on October 3 at the Wrightwood 569 gallery in Chicago.
• The exhibition, Tetsuya Ishida: Self-Portrait of Other, brings over 70 paintings and works on paper by Ishida, which had been on display at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain this summer. It was a five-month-long exhibition attracting more than 300,000 viewers.
• Wrightwood 659 is a 1920 structure renovated by Japanese architect Tadao Ando in 2018. The completely remodeled gallery is one of the famous public works designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning master architect.

• Tetsuya Ishida, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 31, was a 1996 graduate of Musashino Art University in Japan. From graduation to his untimely death by accident, Ishida was active as an artist and left behind more than 180 works.
• Ishida’s surreal art mirrors the Japanese society in the 1990s, the world after the bubble economy collapsed and the sense of anxiety, fear of disorientation and alienation gripped the entire society.

• Ishida was part of the young generation who spent “the lost decade” in recession, mass layoffs, advancing automation, and merciless consumer culture.
• To support himself as a solo artist, Ishida took a factory job at night. What he saw and experienced there was conveyed to his canvas.
• Take, for example, a sense of alienation and desperation – such as a person might feel after a long day of unsuccessful sales calls with no results to show. A viewer may easily be able to identify it in any of Ishida’s works.

• Seen as a portrayal of contemporary Japanese life, Ishida’s art typically features a young man inserted into a very peculiar modern Japanese consumer landscape. And overall, though often disturbing and bizarre, each of his work conjures up some strangely familiar feelings in a viewer’s mind if one spends some time with it.
• The Tetsuya Ishida official website (set up by his family following his death) describes his art by saying that, through a character what can be seen as himself, he expressed the value of individuality and sharply criticized Japan’s highly controlled social systems and school education.

• Another aspect of the strange attraction of Ishida’s art is his artistic skills. The realistic technique is genuine, with accurate proportions and angles. Seen close-up, his works reveal highly detailed and accurate depictions of objects. Visitors to the exhibition can appreciate first-hand his brush strokes and paint coating techniques, which would be difficult to see in prints and reproductions.

• According to the official website, Ishida began drawing at around 2, often asking for a piece of paper and spending a lot of time on drawing.
• As he grew up, he would draw on any blank space he could find, like margins of school textbooks and exam papers. At the age of 11, he won the first award in the “human rights comics contest” organized by the Shizuoka Prefecture.
• Ishida won the Grand Prize in the 6th Graphic Art “Hitotsubo” Show in 1995 and the Grand Prize in the Japan Visual Art Exhibition in 1997. He consistently participated in art exhibitions and held a few solo shows throughout his career, but remained largely unknown.

• Following his death, in 2006, Ishida’s works were shown on NHK’s Sunday TV program “New Sunday Art Museum,” which introduced his art to the popular viewership for the first time.
• Since then, a multitude of exhibitions have been organized across Japan, featuring Ishida’s works. A large number of Ishida’s works have been donated by Ishida’s family to the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art in his hometown as a permanent exhibition.

• In 2015, Ishida’s works were exhibited at the Central Pavilion during the 56th Venice Biennial in Italy.
• The exhibition caught the attention of Teresa Velázquez Cortes, Head of Exhibitions at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, one of the most prestigious art museums in Spain.
• Identifying a rare quality of expression and technique in Ishida’s art, Cortes curated the exhibition, Tetsuya Ishida: Self-Portrait of Other, at her museum from April 12 to September 8. As many as 313,000 people visited the exhibition by the end of July.

• The U.S. exhibition is organized by the Museo Nacional in association with Chicago-based Halsted A&A Foundation.
• Concurrent with Ishida’s exhibition and in connection with the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Wrightwood 659 will also present Tadao Ando: Museums and Galleries, an exhibition of models, drawings and photographs of museums and galleries designed by Ando and built in Naoshima Island, Kagawa Prefecture. It is a presentation by Alphawood Foundation Chicago.

• During the period of the Ishida exhibition, there will be additional programs such as weekly tours and a panel discussion. For more information, visit

Tetsuya Ishida: Self-Portrait of Other (Oct. 3 – Dec. 14)
◆Location: Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago
◆Time: Thursdays and Fridays 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Saturdays 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
◆Tickets: General admission $16 (All visits to Wrightwood 659 require a reservation. Tickets for Tetsuya Ishida: Self-Portrait of Other and Tadao Ando: Museums and Galleries are available, online only, at During the exhibition, free general admission tickets will be released each Monday for the current week.)

Sesshoku (Contact), 1998
Tetsuya Ishida, 2019; Photograph: Takemi Art Photos, courtesy Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Ltd.

Mebae (Awakening), 1998
Tetsuya Ishida, 2019; Photograph: Takemi Art Photos, courtesy Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Ltd.

Maigo (Lost), 2004
Tetsuya Ishida, 2019; Photograph: Takemi Art Photos, courtesy Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Ltd.

Kiro, 2003
Tetsuya Ishida, 2019; Photograph: Takemi Art Photos, courtesy Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Ltd.

Supermarket, 1996
Tetsuya Ishida, 2019; Photograph: Takemi Art Photos, courtesy Kyuryudo Art Publishing Co., Ltd.