Is there a singular path of life choices that one should make to eventually find success as an artist? A checklist of actions that would guarantee one accomplishing this lofty goal? If such a scheduled series of events were to exist, perhaps it would appear thusly: At an early age, discover satisfaction in creating something from nothing, possibly by filling notebook pages with recreations of one’s favorite manga characters or spending hours assembling Lego constructions. Upon reaching young adulthood, responsibly become educated in a practical though still creative field, such as studying graphic design at Santa Barbara Community College. Then find an established mentor that will lure one towards fine art through a three-month internship, someone like David Flores, and become tutored on the finer details of sculpting by a close friend, maybe one named Joe Shea. And, finally, create a massive oeuvre of works that exhibit their creator’s unique voice, conceivably personifying inanimate objects by adding contemplative faces to them. While not guaranteed to work for everyone, these were some of the key factors in Yoskay Yamamoto‘s evolution towards becoming the acclaimed artist he is today.
And in March of 2012, in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown, LeBasse Projects hosted a sculptural extravaganza by Yamamoto, a solo exhibition titled Joke’s On Me…. Representative of an undertaking by the artist over several previous years, the majority of the works displayed were modifications of iconic forms changed to incorporate Yamamoto’s neutral facial expressions, such as the above-pictured trio of pieces. A massive mixture of mediums, including clay, plaster, wood, vinyl, and resin, these were humorously referred to by the artist as his “uninvited collaboration” series. But these augmented depictions of cultural creations would prove to be a phase in Yamamoto’s career, as he was already returning focus to completely original works, like the inclusion in this exhibition of his Sideways sculpture.

Yoskay Yamamoto’s Sideways Sculptures

Creating a gravity-defying illusion wherein the character is displayed resting on the side of its box-shaped head, Yamamoto’s Sideways creation was potentially evolved from a sketchbook page concept from sometime between December 2011 to February 2012. In the sketch, a cube’s surface becomes reminiscent of M.C. Escher‘s Relativity (1953), a trio of humanoid figures each inhabiting their individual surface’s separate ” gravity well”. Noted by Yamamoto that these inhabitants would be respectively “sitting, standing, [and] laying down”, the more minimally composed Sideways incorporated a similar “gag” in a singular, far more humorous character that was accompanied by three smaller Down Side Up renditions of itself. After its debut as part of the artist’s Joke’s On Me… exhibition, a sitting version of this character was created for June 2012’s Game Over group show at the Giant Robot 2 gallery. And only one year later, the Sideways form would return again, this time as a limited edition piece produced by Mighty Jaxx.
With the limited edition rendition’s body cast in resin and head made from wood, the latter being a medium that Yamamoto had been embracing thoroughly in his works at the time, this newest Sideways iteration debuted on June 6th of 2013 with a preorder directly from Mighty Jaxx. Following this black and mint colored edition, subsequent versions mainly made their initial issuing at conventions, namely San Diego Comic-Con, the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention, New York Comic Con, and DesignerCon. And while the DCon edition was announced as the final coloration, early the following year witnessed the offering of the Chalkboy rendition, the form coated in a chalkboard-like material. Offered exclusively as part of Mighty Jaxx’s annual membership package, each copy was accompanied by a pack of chalk, buyers encouraged to draw non-permanently on their figure and submit a photo of their finished “chalk doodled” Sideways piece to the company, the creator of the “best” entry receiving an original piece of artwork by Yamamoto. And while the form’s lifespan seemed exhausted, the artist resurrected it for one final appearance, a threesome of hand-sculpted renditions in varying sizes for his Rainy Day with Chance of Sun solo exhibition at Portland’s Hellion Gallery in October of 2014. Titled Sidewayz #1-3, these stacked depictions feel exceptionally otherworldly in their displayed state, their repeatition turning one’s perception of the world sideways.

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