Ben Sakoguchi — Oranges — pancartes — cartes postales


Mixed media

Ben Sakoguchi
Oranges — pancartes — cartes postales

Past: June 9 → July 22, 2023

Ben Sakoguchi was born in San Bernardino, in California in 1938.

In December 1941, when he was just three years old, Japanese forces attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. The United States entered the war and from then on harboured strong resentment towards citizens of Japanese origin. Suspected of espionage and sabotage, 120,000 civilians were interned in detention camps. Ben Sakoguchi spent his childhood in one of these camps in Poston (Arizona).

At the end of the war, his family returned to San Bernardino and reopened, not without difficulty, the small grocery shop they had been forced to leave.

One of Sakoguchi’s earliest influences was the orange crate labels stacked behind his parents’ shop. Between 1974 and 1981, he produced over two hundred paintings based on these labels, which enabled him to paint a gritty portrait of America. Combining images from advertisements, films and newspapers, he revealed the underside of the great American dream: discrimination, prejudice and violence, particularly towards minorities.

Galerie gp n vallois exposition 13 1 medium
Ben Sakoguchi, Sonia’s Citroën Brand, 2011 Acrylique sur toile, cadre en pin — 25,4 × 27,9 cm Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie G-P & N Vallois, Paris

In 1979, the artist was invited by the Claude Monet Foundation to come to France. He stayed in Giverny and took advantage of its proximity to Paris and northern France to take a series of photographs. He also collected old photographs and drew inspiration from the work of the great masters, whose masterpieces he sometimes imitated.

This was the beginning of a new series, Postcards from France, in which art confronts war and the present confronts the past.

Sakoguchi is a graduate of UCLA in Los Angeles. He taught at Pasadena City College until his retirement. He has taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and his work can be found in major American collections: MoMA, Chicago Art Institute, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington), etc. “Was it to have been one of those Americans of Japanese descent interned during the Second World War, was it to have had, among the first landscapes of a young consciousness, the elevations of water towers and watchtowers, and the alley ways of the camps? It is still Ben Sakoguchi who not only dispenses the nervous, corrosive joy of the observer in love with truth and justice; he embodies a never mawkish emollient of loving sweetness — of a charity, we could say, if the term did not carry a whiff the stoup and the good conscience that is baptised in it. Because Ben Sakoguchi does not invent good conscience; he works, once again like Goya, in this land of crimes where monsters hatch, prosper and run rampant; this, then, is the image that can elastically enclose the data, processes and scope of this art. The image which is image par excellence say “monster”, and also, horrors for the eye awaken in the imagination), which is the image — the protean, bifurcating, multiplied image — par excellence of Ben Sakoguchi. Not only by virtue of the tribe of monstrous beings of which his works are the tapestry: Trump, Putin, Stalin, or those sacred monsters that are the great movers of art, Monet, Yves Klein; not only because of the dismal theory of the ignominy that man inflicts on man: racism, war.

Galerie gp n vallois exposition 15 1 medium
Ben Sakoguchi, Aces & Artists Brand, 1997 Acrylique sur toile, cadre en pin — 25,4 × 27,9 cm Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie G-P & N Vallois, Paris

[…] Advertising, cars, oranges — in this case the more anodyne everyday characters, those to whom we are blinded by custom (just like the characters of the letters which abound in many of Sakoguchi’s images, to the point that, in all this verbal congestion, one ends up no longer seeing the words they form). It is there, in the run-of-the-mill minutes of the so twisted “American Way of Life” that the monstrous germination recorded by Ben Sakoguchi, a watchman whose eye is as eternally open as the supernatural eye of the US dollar, is revealed.“

Damien Aubel in exhibition’s catalog, Ben Sakoguchi — Oranges — pancartes — cartes postales — Galerie GP & N Vallois & Les presses du réel, 2023

06 St Germain Zoom in 06 St Germain Zoom out

33/36, rue de Seine

75006 Paris

T. 01 46 34 61 07 — F. 01 43 25 18 80


Opening hours

Every day except Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM

The artist

  • Ben Sakoguchi