Last Friday, September 24th, Fabric8 held the opening reception for “Pao Pao Nest,” an exhibition featuring the imaginative artworks of New York artists Aya Kakeda and Fumiha Tanaka.  Through a series of paintings, etchings, and mixed media sculptures the viewer is invited into the cheerful fantasy world of Pao Pao Land, a landscape populated by people, plants, and animals from the duo’s inventive imagination.

Click on the image gallery above to see all the photos from the Pao Pao Nest show!

The two artists met while attending Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, but they did not begin collaborating until 2005 for a show titled “Pao Pao Land” at the Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, South Carolina.  The center was planning a Japanese Art and Music festival and as Fumiha recalled “…we thought it would be fun to collaborate.  We both like to make art and make up stories.  Pao Pao Girls were born!”  The name “Pao Pao” comes from the artists’ mutual love of elephants, which in Japanese make a noise described as “Paaao, Paaaao”!

The Redux show was a success and the two immediately wanted to continue exploring the world they had begun creating.  The next peek into Pao Pao Land would be centered on the theme of a “nest”.  After being inspired by nature and a squirrel nest in a bare tree they saw in the dead of winter, the duo thought it would be great to make a life-sized nest.  They created a mixed media installation and invited viewers into the fantasy landscape.  The exhibition included acrylic paintings on wood panels, water color paintings on paper, zinc etchings colored with aquatint, and a variety of bright mixed media sculptures of the animals of Pao Pao.  Nature re-imagined is an overarching theme in the artworks of this show; almost all of the paintings and etchings depict humans, plants, and animals interacting in harmonious but often unexpected ways.

The show features both collaborative and solo works by the pair of Japanese artists. Each brings their own distinct aesthetic to this cohesive body of work.  Aya Kakeda is a painter and commercial illustrator, and her work has been featured in magazines such as Juxtapoz and Design Week.  Aya’s aesthetic is much more stylized and linear than Fumiha’s; many of her figures are illustrated using precise, dark outlines which highlight the figure’s two dimensionality.  On the other hand, Fumiha’s figures are much more organic and less concerned with exact proportion and line.  Her images are cheerful and innocent and rely on a rosy, pastel color palette.

I personally enjoyed suspending reality for the hour I was in the gallery.  This show is imaginative and whimsical and I think it really strives to simply brighten the viewer’s day.  As Fumiha describes it “We wanted to tickle everyone’s inner child and make them smile”.

Pao Pao Nest was curated by Artist Kevin Earl Taylor (a fellow Savannah College of Art and Design alum) and will be on view at Fabric8 until October 18th.  The gallery is located at 3318 22nd Street, San Francisco in the Mission and it is open daily until 7pm, check the website for upcoming shows.

by Maggie Pike for

(In addition to writing for Warholian, Maggie Pike also runs the website Gone Tomorrow SF which covers the world of San Francisco Street Art.  Check it out here: )