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Vibrant Reworkings Bring Cabinet Cards Out of the Dark

Shinya Kato’s series of Pop-ified cabinet cards aren’t your grandmother’s knickknacks.
All images courtesy the artist and Plus 81 Gallery

A relic of the living room hearth gets unearthed and splashed with color in Japanese artist Shinya Kato's series of bold, color-fused cabinet cards. The antique cards, seemingly lost inside a musty piece of furniture before being discovered, get the Pop art treatment with vibrant shielding bars that resonate less as censorship but as a jolt of contemporary energy.

The artist, a native of Nagoya city, Japan and who now lives and works in New York, is a fan of dichotomy. Cabinet cards are Kato’s method of pulling something old out of the art world (actual antiques) and placing it next to something new. The works are reflective of so much of the new interpretation of the Pop movement today: bold colors coupled with remixes on pop culture images past their prime.


The series is called Life Goes On, a moniker which draws inspiration from both the songs of Tupac Shakur and Japanese rock band Dragon Ash. It’s clear Kato heavily consider his musical influences when crafting his works—in the show's press release, it's evident that the artist’s history of playing drums in a punk band and designing band logos helped shape his style and frame his entrée into the art world. For years in Japan, Kato worked diligently at a photo printing shop, an everyday routine that gradually drew him into a world of photos—sometimes 300 images a day—that depicted perfect strangers and the foreign images of their daily lives. Kato eventually coupled his interest in photography with the elements of painting.

Take in a handful of his reworked cabinet card paintings below:

Gallery view of Life Goes On

Shinya Kato’s show, Life Goes On, runs at Plus 81 Gallery until August 20th. Find more exhibitions at Plus 81 here, and see more of Shinyo Kato’s art here.


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