Rita Ackermann at the Parco Gallery

by Monty DiPietro

Not surprisingly, when Rita Ackermannís first baby (a girl, name of Marika Thunder Nuss) was born a little over a year ago, the Hungarian-American artist says her life changed. But what is probably of more interest to fans of the New York-based painter is what then happened to her art. "Revelations" is a collaboration with writer Byron Coley and the first major work from the 32 year-old artist-as-new mother. It is a record-album-sized, 100-page hardcover book which, while it follows the format of a childrenís storybook, probably wonít be found sharing shelf space with other local childrenís publications such as, say, the continuing adventures of Anpanman.

True to the artistís quirky style, and influenced no doubt by her the Texas-born musician husband David Nuss (ex-Ankor Wat), the book weaves the fascinating story of a 1960s Hawaii-based musical group Father Yod and the Ya Ho Wa Thirteen, who were a sort of folk music-meets-cult bunch not dissimilar to the marginally-better-known Holy Modal Rounders (havenít heard of them either? Brush up your hippie music history!).

About fifty of Ackermannís original mixed-media collage illustrations for the book are complimented by several large works on canvas in "Revelations," an exhibition now on at the Parco Gallery in Tokyoís hipper-than-thou Shibuya Ward.

The pictures find Yod, as the leader of the group was known, climbing the ladder of his life from conception to consecration. Crude in execution and a heck of a lot of fun to look at, the works depict Yodís birth and subsequent realization of his divinity, his struggles, the exodus of Yod and his followers from California (on surfboards) to Hawaii and success, and finally, the time when "Ya Ho Waís soul left his body through his eyes," and his disciples "carefully skinned his corpse, filled its cavity with myrrh, and mounted it rampant in the corner of the templeÖbeautiful, terrifying, and devoid of all liquids." Yes, this is not exactly kidís stuff.

Ackermann hit big in New York about five years ago with a series of drawings from her debut book, "If You Keep Your Mouth Shut," which, like "Revelations," was first published in Japan. Her stature and influence here have grown to the point where she is involved in Japanese contemporary culture at the most-coveted level Ė which is, of course, underwear.

"Wet Melon" is a Shibuya Ward boutique and exclusive marketers of the undergarments that sport Ackermannís silk-screened designs, and sales of the pricey menís boxer shorts and what owner Eriko Yamamoto terms "womanís sexy panties" are brisk among the shopís trendy young clientele. Ackermann is, as they say, big in Japan.

At the A-list opening party for her show, the long-blond-haired artist circulates, sporting a pair of menís navy blue gym shorts under a sheer black knee length skirt, complimented by a pair of white leather ankle boots and a black T-shirt. She remarks that while Japanese may be superficial in their appreciation of style, she really doesnít care.

"Japan is my place," she says, "I make my living from Japan because they love what I do and seem to understand everything I do, like, you know, how my brain operates."

Ackermann is doing what she loves to do, and the smile on husband Davidís face suggests that Yod would have approved. For those curious about the bygone band, a complete CD issue of the Father Yod and the Ya Ho Wa Thirteen catalogue has just been released, and the Ackermann clan recommend it wholeheartedly.

"They are incredible," gushes Ackermann, "youíve got to hear their stuff!"


notes: Until Oct 11, 1999
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