Masami Teraoka

MASAMI TERAOKA was born in 1936 in Onomichi, Hiroshima, Japan.  He graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts in Aesthetics from Kwansei Gakuin University, Hyogo, Japan. Teraoka continued his education in the United States, earning a Bachelor of Arts (1964) and a Master of Arts (1968) from Otis College of Art and Design, California.

Teraoka’s works integrate reality with fantasy, humor with social commentary, and the historical with the contemporary. Teraoka’s early paintings often focused on the meeting of East and West, and series that began in the 1970s such as “McDonald's Hamburgers Invading Japan,” “New Views of Mt Fuji,” and “31 Flavors Invading Japan” address the impacts of economic and cultural globalization. While sexuality is a recurring theme in his work, his representation of sex shifted from positive depictions of free-love in the 1970s and early 1980s, to a deeper concern with unprotected sex as a vector for mortality and the spread of HIV in the mid-1980s.

In response to the AIDS crisis and its cultural impact, Teraoka began producing large scale works as a means of addressing major social crises. In the 1990s, Teraoka’s narrative paintings addressed social and political issues such as sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, hypocrisy in American politics, and social repression in Russia under Vladimir Putin’s leadership.

Teraoka’s paintings on panel are inspired by gilded Renaissance triptychs, continuing the narrative approach of his earlier, ukiyo-e inspired work, but rendered with baroque oil paints that reference Western ecclesiastical art. In 2017, Teraoka produced an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest  in collaboration Viktoria Naraxsa of Russian activist collective Pussy Riot, which premiered at the Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii. Since their collaboration, Viktoria has been featured as a protagonist in Teraoka’s paintings, interacting with Pope Francis, Vladimir Putin, and Teraoka’s former collaborator, the geisha Momotaro.

Catharine Clark Gallery, California, presented Masami Teraoka: The Last Swan Lake, the artist’s monographic exhibit in 2022. Teraoka’s work has been the subject of more than 70 solo exhibitions, including the 2017 solo survey Floating Realities: The Art of Dr. Masami Teraoka at California State University, Fullerton. Teraoka’s work has also been featured in solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1979), New York; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution (1996), Washington, DC; Asian Art Museum (1997), California; Yale University Art Gallery (1998), Connecticut; New Albion Gallery (2012), New South Wales, Australia; and Honolulu Museum of Art (2015), Hawaii, amongst other venues. Teraoka’s work was also exhibited at the RISD Museum, Rhode Island, along with a catalogue; Cedar Street Galleries, Hawaii; Art Gallery at New South Wales, Australia; and Katonah Museum of Art, New York in 2022, as well as the Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico in 2019, many of which continue into 2023.

His work is represented in more than 50 public collections worldwide, including the Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Crocker Art Museum, California; Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire; the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon; Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland, United Kingdom; Center for Contemporary Graphic Art and Tyler Graphics Archive Collection, Fukushima, Japan; National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; and Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, among others. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, California, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, acquired woodblock prints of McDonald’s Hamburgers Invading Japan/Tattooed Woman and Geisha III (2018). The latter institution also added 31 Flavors Invades Japan/Today’s Special (1982) to its collection. In 2015, the artist was awarded the Lee Krasner Award by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in recognition of outstanding lifetime artistic achievement. In 2019, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, acquired a major work by Teraoka, Los Angeles Sushi Ghost Tales/Fish Woman and the Artist I (1979) in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the artist’s solo museum exhibition. In 2016, Teraoka was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Otis College of Art and Design, California.

Teraoka’s work has been featured in multiple publications, including Ascending Chaos: The Art of Masami Teraoka 1966 – 2006, published by Chronicle Books in 2006 and Floating Realities: The Art of Masami Teraoka, published by California State University, Fullerton in 2018.

The artist lives and works in O‘ahu, Hawaii, and has been represented by Catharine Clark Gallery since 1998.