It is only a few days away until the Los Angeles Film Festival opening night, but the city has been buzzing for weeks to see this year’s films. In addition to the amazing films shown every year, the festival commissions an extraordinary artist to design the poster that will represent the festival across the city.
In the past, posters were designed by renowned artists, Ed Ruscha, Carolyn Castano, and Noah Davis to name a few. This year the tradition and honor of designing the festival poster was given to the amazing Yoskay Yamamoto. You might already be familiar with Yamamoto’s work from murals in Culver City, or his well received gallery exhibitions, or you know, for the festival’s poster that has been promoted all across town.
Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and speaking to Yoskay Yamamoto about his work, this particular image, and why designing this year’s poster brought on an unusual pressure.
You have been a professional artist with work and exhibitions displayed all around the world, what makes doing the poster for the LA Film Festival different from past artwork?
Yamamoto: It is different because with this commission from Film Independent I felt responsible to represent the city of Los Angeles. With my personal work, that part of responsibility doesn’t exist. It is not a limitation, but with my personal work I tend to express myself without anything else to think about.
Is it exciting to know that you are creating an image to represent a festival full of other artists? Or is there a lot of pressure?
Yamamoto: I felt pressure in a way, because the past and previous artists who worked on the same assignment are pretty big heavyweights. They are a really big deal- Ed Ruscha is the biggest pop artist in Los Angeles. So, doing a project like this is a big pressure. But, to have to capture the film aspect wasn’t too big of a pressure because I feel that I created an image that creates a story. Film’s tell stories. I was trying to create an image that tells a story that people would see when they look at it.
When I look at the painting I feel a calming cool dream-like state. What is the mood or specific story you wanted your image to tell?
Yamamoto: Oh, thank you. I think you are spot on when you said the image was peaceful and calm. That was a very intentional thing that I did with this image. At this moment we are living in such a chaotic time, where there is so much news constantly coming at us. So, in order to counter balance that came my idea to create something very peaceful and calming. This is a type of assignment where it will be in front of people with a lot of exposure. I want people to see the image, and for a brief moment calm down or brighten their mood- even just for 5 seconds. I thought that would be such an awesome way to spread this peaceful calming sensation across the city. If I can capture people’s eyes even for a moment it would be so great. If I can put a smile on their face that would be such an awesome thing that I would get to do through this image.
Part of your art is blending both your Japanese heritage and your experiences living in SoCal as an artist. What is the difference between your earlier work as an artist compared to your work now?
Yamamoto: With my earlier work I think it is easier to see the western and eastern culture mix- but also a traditional urban mix. But, with my recent work I am focusing more on creating something that has a positive energy.
What was your inspiration or muse when creating this poster?
Yamamoto: For this particular image I referenced one of the artists that I like and admire, which is René Magritte. I feel like a lot of the paintings he creates have a very good sense of humor and are surreal. There is a really good storytelling quality about his paintings that I enjoy. So I figured, it would be cool to create an image based on that, because film is all about storytelling whether it be a person or a group. It is my homage to Rene (Magritte).
You have a vast array of talents from sculpture, to murals, to 3D works, and of course, paintings. Explain to me your process when you are creating a painting, do you just focus on your illustration or bring other aspects of your artistic work to the table?
Yamamoto: I think it goes both ways. There are certain paintings where the idea came from a sculpture, and there are some sculptures where the idea actually came from a painting- so it was a 2 dimensional image in the beginning. But then at the same time, there are paintings that I can’t re-create in sculpture because I am not technically advanced yet. Most of the time I take a look at an image or idea that I am trying to process in my head to figure out the best way to make it into a tangible object. Sometimes, the best solution is a painting, and sometimes the best solution is an installation or a sculpture. So it really depends on the idea itself.
A lot of your work has elements of the sky, stars or universe. Is that something you do purposefully and why?
Yamamoto: I think the whole thing about painting the sky actually started when I moved to Los Angeles. I did a big mural in Culver City around 2008-2010 and painted a starry night background. Living in Los Angeles I don”t get to see the stars as much, compared to growing up in a small seaside town in Japan. That’s one of the things I kind of miss about my home town. So the whole idea of painting stars came from missing the stars. I liked the colors of the blue, and I think a blue palette is really fun to play with. After that mural, it became a really fun visual element that I kept using. Then from the sky came the sunset. The sunset is another thing I started painting after living in Los Angeles. We have such a beautiful sunset here in LA, I just want to use that in my painting as well. I guess living in the city of Los Angeles has shifted my work in this direction.
What are you looking forward to the most about the festival?
Yamamoto: I am so excited about the whole thing. I am excited that I get to share my art with so many people, and I am also excited to see the different types of films. I attended a pre-festival event and I got to meet a young director during the event named, Brandon Buczek, who has his very first feature film in the festival called “Your Own Road”. So that is one movie I am looking forward to seeing since I got to know the director and know the thought behind it. Overall, I am just excited to see the different films, especially documentary since I was told there are a lot of great documentaries this year. I am just psyched about this- I couldn’t be happier.
“I want people to see the image, and for a brief moment calm down or brighten their mood- even just for 5 seconds. I thought that would be such an awesome way to spread this peaceful calming sensation across the city.”
– Yoskay Yamamoto
To learn more about Yamamoto visit:
Yoskay Yamamoto Bio:
Born and raised in Toba, Japan, Yoskay Yamamoto moved to the United States at the age of 15. A self-trained illustrator, Yamamoto’s artistic tastes expanded as he fell in love with the urban culture of the West coast. Yamamoto discovered a way to fuse the two different cultural backgrounds together into his work. Yamamoto nostalgically blends pop iconic characters from his new Western home with traditional and mythical Japanese elements, balancing his Asian heritage with urban pop art.
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(All images are courtesy of LA Film Festival and Yoskay Yamamoto)