Ay-O The Rainbow Man

09.01.2020

WordsSolenn Cordroc'h

©Ay-O

Real name, Takao Lijima. The Japanese artist Ay-O, more commonly known as The Rainbow Man for his use of the rainbow colour scheme in most of his artwork, has made a name for himself in Japan and across the globe. Seeking a way to become an anti-art artist at every turn, a term used by Marcel Duchamp to describe a set of concepts and attitudes rejecting established art, he found inspiration in 1964. He decided that instead of remaining within the tormented space of choice between colours and patterns, he would use all the nuances of the visible spectrum, evoking the continuous transition of the seven colours of the rainbow.

He was introduced to George Maciunas, the main founder of the Fluxus movement in 1961 by another member of the group, none other than Yoko Ono. Ay-O then became an active member. Created in the early 1960s, Fluxus brings together artists from different backgrounds such as chemistry, economics or music and aspires to revalue life by breaking down the gap that separates it from art. Ay-O began to create happenings involving his Finger Box. Produced for the first time in 1964, the Finger Boxes are tactile works consisting of small cubic boxes pierced with a hole, in which various objects such as hair, cotton balls, pearls, sponges or nails are placed. The observer should insert his finger in the hole of the box and try to guess its contents. In 1987, Ay-O acquired a certain international reputation during his series of rainbow happenings, notably in France when he suspended a 300-metre ribbon at the Eiffel Tower.

Although much of Ay-O’s work is not purely Japanese, he does not disregard traditional Japanese motifs, as shown by his engraving in the Sumo Wrestling collection, inspired by a work by artist Utagawa Kunisada. Ay-O also likes to identify with a mythological creature of Japanese folklore called kappa, which he integrates into certain works. His colourful work, recognisable at first glance, can be seen in the collections of the national museums of modern art of Tokyo and Kyoto, and is well worth a visit.

©Ay-O

Ay-O, Finger Box, 1964, Cardboard box, with mixed media and printed paper labels, 9.5 x 9.2 x 8.3 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, Novak/O'Doherty Collection, 2015

©Ay-O

©Ay-O

©Ay-O