Yu Maeda: A Psychedelic Artist Blending Japanese and American Influences

Yu Maeda

Yu Maeda is a Japanese-American artist, born in 1984 in Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan, now residing in Southern California (and planning to return to Japan). He is known for his highly unique psychedelic paintings, the influences of which he has discussed in a fascinating interview featured in Juxtapoz (many examples of his art are included in the article). Based on his background, upbringing, and subsequent experiences in the US, Maeda blends both Japanese and American influences into his psychedelic artwork, which often features vibrant, multi-coloured, multi-patterned creatures.

On the American side of things, his influences include 1980s horror and sci-fi films by David Cronenberg and Alex Proyas, The Simpsons, Disney (particularly the animation Silly Symphony: Flowers and Trees), South Park, the cartoon character Rat Fink (created by Ed Roth), the Lowbrow pop surrealist artists, and the skateboard graphic art of Jim Phillips. In terms of Japanese influences, Maeda has been inspired by Shintoism (the original polytheistic religion of Japan, founded in the 6th century AD), Buddhism, and animism (the view that all things have a unique spirit, an essential tenet of the Shinto religion).

I discovered Maeda’s work after posting some artwork I had created on the DMT subreddit. This drawing, several commenters thought, had a striking resemblance to Maeda’s own psychedelic entities – and I can definitely see what they mean. The similarities I can see include symmetrical beings made out of geometry, long tubular arms, gesturing hands, faces with intense expressions and tongues sticking out. Even the colour scheme looks similar in some of his pieces. When perusing some of his pieces, I got the strong impression that his artwork is inspired by DMT and mescaline: DMT because of the appearance of the faces and entities, as well as the strange composition of his pieces; and mescaline, because of the patterns, motifs, and colour scheme he uses. His pieces remind me of both the DMT-influenced art of INCEDGRIS and Huichol peyote art.

I’ve included a selection of his psychedelic artwork in this article, but I’d highly recommend checking out his Instagram, as he posts all of his artwork on there. I’m really glad I was introduced to Maeda, as he’s one of the most original psychedelic artists I’ve come across in a while. When I see his pieces, it’s like looking at traditional Huichol art but which has been modernised, imbued – in a very aesthetically pleasing way – with Maeda’s own psychedelic style and his unique blend of cultural influences.

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