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US photo exhibit address identity issues. Tomoko Sawada's "Facial Signature" on view at ROSEGALLERY

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Japanese artist Tomoko Sawada says Americans often tell her she looks Korean or Chinese or a number of other East Asian ethnicities. The experience inspired her to open a new exhibit in Los Angeles, called "Facial Signature." CCTV America's Patrice Howard reports:

human beings share 99.99999 percent of the same genes. All of us — despite having different types of so-called “added cultural values” — such as nationality, race, religion, and language — are by nature and essence equal to one another.
— Tomoko Sawada

be-Art Magazine features Facial Signature by Tomoko Sawada

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EXHIBITION: Tomoko Sawada at ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica

Facial Signature  Installation, 2016

Facial Signature Installation, 2016

"Of course behind Tomoko Sawada’s performance, those 300 faces staring at you, act like a boomerang toward your own identity. And you ended up asking to yourself what if I were blond, or red or long hair or whatever shape, would my life be different? Would I be different as a person? Very smart indeed.  A must be seen"

Be-Art Magazine recently covered the Exhibition Facial Signature, detailing the nuances between individual portraits as extraordinary.  Visit their website at to read more.


Behind-the-scenes look at Tomoko Sawada's Facial Signature

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Our installation for Tomoko Sawada's Facial Signature exhibition is our best one to date!  The exhibition features 300 unique self-portraits, framed and displayed as a grid.  Today we are sharing a behind-the-scenes time-lapse video and a flip-through of the book of the same series.  

Watch from our Vimeo below:

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LA Times: What does 'the Asian woman' look like? Artist explores identity with 300 self-portraits

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Sharon Mitzota reviewed Tomoko Sawada's Facial Signature Exhibition for the LA Times on 3 March.

Tomoko Sawada,  Facial Signature , 2015. (© Tomoko Sawada / ROSEGALLERY)

Tomoko Sawada, Facial Signature, 2015. (© Tomoko Sawada / ROSEGALLERY)

"Tomoko Sawada has photographed herself relentlessly, dressing up Cindy-Sherman-style as schoolgirls, twins, brides or other characters since the mid-1990s. Her new work at ROSEGALLERY, “Facial Signature,” consists of 300 self-portraits that are remarkable for how Sawada achieves variation within very narrow parameters: the American notion of “the Asian woman. . .The repetition leads to a much less sanguine conclusion that despite our personal styling, to America, Asian women all still look alike.”

Read the article in it's entirety HERE.



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We are delighted to share a few images sent to us by Tomoko Sawada of her new work Facial Signature now on view at MEM in Tokyo.


The face is a signature that with singular particularity signals one’ s identity. Even if a person’s body type approximates someone else’ s whom you know, you will not recognize the person precisely until you glimpse the face. Both nationality and race enhance the precision, but otherwise they do not alter the inherent act of processing perceptions. With intended irony to engender confusion, I re-state that we human beings share 99.99999% of the same genes. All of us despite having different types of so-called “added cultural values—such as nationality, race, religion, and language - are by nature and essence equal to one another.

The genesis of the project Facial Signature grew out of my experience in New York City over a number of years. There were many political problems of different East Asian nations, but I didn’t pay attention to them and made friends with diverse people. At one point while there I had an epiphany, realizing that others were not necessarily seeing me as Japanese. I was told at various times that I looked Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Mongolian, et cetera (and only occasionally Japanese). This made me consider the intuitive process by which people achieve cognition of true or false archetypes. Following this trick logic and to discover what I could (and “could not”) be or become transformed myself 300 times to look like a variety of East Asian women.

Tomoko Sawada
Kobe, Japan

Venue: MEM map
open hours:12:00-20:00 closed on Mondays
tel. +81-(0)3-6459-3205