Inside un petite Garage — a space so small that even in its past life as a parking garage, only a single coupe would have barely fit — adorable, meme-worthy kittens and doggies hang orderly on its walls. Curated by Yumi Yamaguchi who owns and directs the gallery located in a busy, prime real estate spot in Tokyo, the awww-inducing “I’m House Sitting” features a horde of small works by photographer Nekoyoshi (probably a play on words “neko” meaning “cat” and “nakayoshi,” which is “good friends”) and painter Ken Hamaguchi.
Moonlighting as a cat sitter, Nekoyoshi candidly captures lovely expressions donned by her clients’ feline companions. The total visual effect is that of a carefully curated Instagram feed with no irony or intent to troll. The sheer cuddling cuteness is dialed to the max for the kill. Each photographed cat appears to soothe the mood of tired, stressed-out Tokyo residents. After all, this is the country that invented a cat café. Cats heal. Cats rule. Carl Kahler’s patrons* would have approved.
On the contrary, Hamaguchi’s technically superb, meticulously painted canines and felines are anything but affectionate — their emotions are entirely missing, especially in the eyes. Known for his erotic, grotesque female figures in shibari (rope bondage) poses overlaid with the calligraphy of Buddhist chants, Hamaguchi’s taste is as peculiar as it is unapologetic. His dogs and cats are no different. Though his animals are juxtaposed against paint color charts, classic Japanese vinyl jackets, or heavy metal album covers, the paintings offer little humor and the critters do not comfort. The paintings are more about Hamaguchi himself than anything else — a self-portrait of sort.
Whether seeking solace or simply being desperate for any companionship, Nekoyoshi and Hamaguchi’s creatures make interesting company. They are the next best thing in lieu of happy hours at a local cat lounge.
I’m House Sitting is still on view at un petite Garage in Tokyo, Japan. It’s a GO-BOOK-YOUR-FLIGHT.
All images by author.
*See World’s Largest Cat Painting Sells for $800,000 on nymag.com