Keiichi Tanaami is arguably the Milton Glaser of Japan – he’s only seven years younger and enjoyed a similar level of success – a prolific image-maker, designer and artist with a penchant for the off-beat and psychedelic. Unlike Glaser however, Tanaami enjoyed phenomenal success as a fine artist. In fact, his ability to operate simultaneously as designer, artist and illustrator is pretty much unprecedented allowing him the freedom to produce a truly intimidating body of work over his lifetime – and he’s still going.
The young Tanaami grew up in Tokyo during the Second World War and bore witness to the destruction of his city. Later his experiences during that time came to bear a great deal on his work, featuring American bombers, explosive skylines and haunting memento moris. Mainly however, his imagery was pure pop-art psychedelia, employed with a ruthless efficiency and commerciality learned from Warhol.
When not producing huge, brightly-coloured paintings and collages Tanaami would busy himself making album covers for band like The Monkees and Jefferson Airplane and art directing the first Japanes edition of Playboy. All in all a pretty impressive career, and one whose influence is still felt very much within the contemporary design and illustration landscape.
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