It’s a telling that Jeremiah Harada prefers his artistic nom de plume, “mr. harada,” spelled sans proper capitalization. The subjects of his simplistic line drawings tend to be sad sacks, wallowing in the midst of existential crises. And why bother with grammar when the world is a series of cruel jokes at your expense?
His new show at Seeing Things Gallery, “I’m a Joke,” may just coax a crooked grin out of those with a certain, twisted sense of humor, his. It will surely prompt some knowing grimaces, as his darkly comic, cartoonish drawings explore feelings of despair, angst and embarrassment.
Like Seeing Things director Jai Tanju, Harada is a member of the TiltMode Army—a group of San Jose skaters who, since the mid ’90s, have developed a cult following for their off-beat aesthetic and impressive videos.
“I’m really grateful to have grown up with these guys and skated with them,” Harada says of his TiltMode friends. The relationship also helped him get work designing a series of decks for Enjoi Skateboards in 2004.
Besides his skating background, Harada is known for his extensive art postcard campaign. The postcards exemplify his unembellished, bare-bones drawing style, featuring odd characters and sardonic slogans.
The project began with postcards for friends. “But then more and more people started catching on. It’s really cool because now I get people from Ireland to China requesting these silly, absurd and subtlety provocative postcards.”
Harada, who recently started contributing to Metro on a regular basis, combines sly humor and silliness in his spontaneous drawings. “I keep it as simple and loose as I possibly can,” he says. “I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to erase.” Though endearingly unadorned in execution and tinged with comedy, the work in “I’m a Joke” can cut deep.
“While the show is called ‘I’m a Joke,’ the theme is more, ‘I am something,'” Harada says. “We’ve all felt vulnerable. We’ll all felt like we could fly. I think it’s important for everyone to see in each of us, that these things exist.”
By combining the playfulness of doodled figure work with a deep consideration of the emotional relationship shared by the artist and his viewers, “I’m a Joke” offers a comprehensive perspective on life. Harada doesn’t shy away from the pain that comes with the joy, or turn a blind eye to the folly that accompanies the fun.
I’m a Joke
Mar 25, 7pm, Free
Seeing Things Gallery, San Jose