A leading name in the world of Japanese advertising, she pioneered the highly dramatic but elusively flat airbrush aesthetic closely associated with commercial illustration. Harumi Yamaguchi’s practice places her in the vanguard of new painterly practices and as a celebrated documenter of an emerging feminist aesthetic from the 1970s onwards.
Born in Matsue in the Shimane prefecture, Yamaguchi graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts in oil painting. She began her career as a freelance illustrator, spearheading the advertising for the renowned retail establishment PARCO. From its outset, PARCO was established to combine a commercial retail establishment with a cultural facility, combining platforms such as museum, theatre, and publishing in addition to retail. Yamaguchi’s role as engineer of the project’s mise-en-scène places her in the center of art and design in Japan.
As one of the original gyaru — commonly known also as “Shibuya Girls” rising from out ūman ribu or the feminist movements of the 1970s and generally applied to professionally-empowered but trend-conscious young women— Yamaguchi’s position at PARCO gave her license to portray an emerging cosmopolitan woman, liberated from the vestiges of traditional femininity and empowered through consumerism to define her own individuality. “Harumi’s gals” are often active and in motion — be it throwing a ball or swimming in a crystal blue pool — and returning the gaze of the viewer.
As Chizuko Ueno noted in her essay published in connection to “Women of the 70s PARCO Poster Exhibition 1969-1986”, an exhibition that took place at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, “while appearing to adhere to the scenario of male-tailored eroticism, Yamaguchi deconstructs male desire through her exaggerative depictions. As a consequence, the female body is idealised to a realm unreachable by male hands”.
Yamaguchi’s works are in the collections of: CCGA Graphic Art Center; Fukushima Kawasaki City Museum, Kanagawa, Japan; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis