LEO KOENIG INC.
Battle of the Planets, the sci-fi anime that Yoshitaka Amano created at Tokyo's Tatsunako Productions, was a staple of my after-school TV-watching schedule in late-'70s England. With costumes that placed them somewhere between trapeze artists and prog rockers, the cartoon's five young heroes, collectively known as G-Force, regularly saved the galaxy with an acrobatic grace that made their American counterparts look sluggish. A couple of these stars returned in Amano's first New York gallery exhibition, but their presence added up to more than unreconstructed nostalgia. Amano originally developed his highly stylized imagery in the service of manga and video-game design, but its influence today is unarguably visible in the "Superflat" cosmos of Takashi Murakami, Mariko Mon, and a handful of other Japanese artists who have lately risen to international stardom.
Hanging in Leo Koenig's main gallery were five glossy paintings on chunky aluminum panels. Face-1 and Face-2 (all works 2002) depict members of the flamboyantly futuristic G-Force intently staring out at the viewer, their piercing eyes shielded by translucent, beaklike visors. In Landing, a figure swoops headlong toward the audience, white cloak flaring around him against a background of smooth gray silver. Amano uses automobile lacquer to achieve an intense, even color and wraps the skin-thin image around the edges of the aluminum support. The portraits are presented without contextualization, but even viewers without a knowledge of the images' specific origins will be instantly aware of their superhero aura of invincibility.
A smaller, untitled panel eschewed identifiable characters in favor of a grimacing white ghost lost in a toxic yellow landscape. A chaos of geometric icons, amorphous cloudlike blobs, and scraps of transfer lettering are strewn across the painting's surface. The squirming, convulsive quality of the line in both this picture and the room's centerpiece, Universe, unexpectedly recalls the work of British cartoonist and Bash Street Kids creator Leo Baxendale--a pupil of a very different school. …