Despite being most frequently categorized as a painter and teacher, perhaps Ray Yoshida (1930–2009) should be foremost considered a collagist. In addition to painstakingly cutting out images from comics, which he would paste into sketchbooks, affix on paper and canvases, and keep meticulously organized in small boxes, Yoshida surrounded himself with a collection of art and objects that exists today as an artist-created environment.
One of these arrangements from his home collection will be recreated in The Autotopographers, illustrating Yoshida’s deftness at combining disparate objects on a shelf into a cohesive tableau. Mass-manufactured products are displayed next to idiosyncratic handmade tools, self-taught art intermingles with the work of his art-school students, and ethnographic and anthropological works sit with thrift-store finds.
Notably humble and soft-spoken, Yoshida never spoke directly about his work or his life, but he was known to excitedly expound on the objects in his collection. These objects, and the stories he could tell about them, became tools for him to connect and share with the people in his life without opening himself up to vulnerability. The objects were stand-ins for his personal anecdotes, ways to address and confront issues and events that impacted his life. Encompassing the objects he collected and assembled to tell his life story, Yoshida’s home collection stands as his autobiography.