Harumi Yamaguchi

Harumi Yamaguchi is a Japanese visual artist and painter. She was born in 1941 in Matsui, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. She trained at the Tokyo University of Art, majoring in oil painting. She started her career as a freelance worker and made advertisement illustrations for PARCO, a department store chain in Japan that “incorporates other cultural elements – such as a museum, theater, and publishing house – into its structure and branding”(artnet). This occurred in the 1970s, a time when Japan had many social, political, and economic reforms. These reforms also occurred in women’s rights and led to the emergence of the women’s liberation movement. Yamaguchi pioneered the dramatic but flat airbrush painterly design closely associated with commercial illustration. Her work puts her on the forefront of new practices and shows her as “a celebrated documenter of an emerging feminist aesthetic from the 1970s onwards” (contemporaryartdaily). Yamaguchi was inspired by these social changes and created illustrations that brought forth female equality in Japanese society. Her position at PARCO allowed her to portray the emerging cosmopolitan woman, the woman who defines her own identity. Her most recent solo exhibition, HARUMI GALS, was unveiled in 2020 in Tokyo. It presents 13 of Yamaguchi’s airbrushed paintings from the 1970s and 1980s, which came from her time working for PARCO. According to ArtAsiaPacific, “in 1978, PARCO published her monograph Harumi Gals, featuring her airbrush works and vibrant illustrations”. This set Yamaguchi in stone as an iconic Japanese female artist. Her depictions of Western women in her work reflects the cultural preferences that dominated Japan in the 1970s and 1980s. This was particularly important in Japan at a time when women did not have very many rights. Yamaguchi’s work inspired new thinking and new ideas. Even though this was a period of social change in Japan, Yamaguchi was a true feminist and openly created art to reflect this. She took a bold stand in her willingness to go beyond traditional art and initiate the emergence of something new and different, something that would define her and impact the future of women’s rights for years to come. The women’s movement that she inspired was called “uman ribu”. At this time in Japan, it took inner courage and a desire to take the risks that would be involved in creating art to inspire social change and a new way of thinking. In this way, Harumi Yamaguchi was a true pioneer in every sense of the word. Her art influenced Japanese perceptions of women in a time of reform for women and for Japanese society as a whole. With a focus on oil painting and illustration, she became a master of airbrush art. In her creations, Yamaguchi illustrated many different types of feminism. The women in her airbrushed paintings were modern and free in her depictions of them. In her artistic creations. They assumed poses and postures which reflected a celebration of their sexuality and an appreciation of their freedom. Harumi Yamaguchi will not only be remembered for her artistic techniques and design skills, but she will also be remembered for the contributions that she made toward new perceptions and greater rights for women.





Harumi Yamaguchi at Project Native Informant

Gallery Hopping: ‘Harumi’s Gals’ Embody Retro Japan’s Perfect Woman at Project Native Informant

Harumi Yamaguchi at Project Native Informant