The work of Ai Yamaguchi is a sanguine blend of past and present. Drawing primarily from tales of young Edo-period prostitutes popularized in Japan from the early 17th century to the mid 19th century, Yamaguchi¹s paintings and drawings are eloquent composites reflecting the world of yukaku (the red-light districts of Yoshiwara, where the majority of such tales were set), wherein the artist imagines and envisions the daily lives and activities of these young brothel workers.
Employing an aesthetic that is at once innocent and slightly disarming, Yamaguchi carries the idea of “cuteness” beyond its clichéd meanings by courting an eroticism imbued with intellectual nuances of history and adolescent androgyny that point to the formation of a relatively sophisticated visual language that draws from such diverse sources as the rich history of Edo-period ukiyo-e print masters to more contemporary forms of Japanese pop culture such as anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comics). Above all, the work of Ai Yamaguchi is a poignant testament to the loss of innocence; that eternal occurrence crossing the confines of history, race and gender. At once a poetic reconfiguration of identities past, and a playful, yet sympathetic beacon of quiet comfort to present and future generations, it’s almost as if the delicate lines of these paintings and drawings trace the contours of all our lives.