When Christian Rex van Minnen recently opened his Spanish debut solo show with Galería Javier López & Fer Francés in Madrid, we thought he had set the bar a notch higher with the evident quality and the amount of work presented (as well as the ingenious title). But only three months later, one of our favorite artists and seriously dear friend, made that same show look like a lazy afternoon exercise with a Tokyo takeover that is currently hosted by NANZUKA at their three locations around the Japanese capital.

To be honest, this is kind of a standard way of doing things for the Santa Cruz-based artist, as his thirst for exploration and discovery just doesn’t allow him to sit still and simply work on one of his accomplished concepts. Instead, Van Minnen is continuously buzzing on the urge to incorporate elements from his vast interest/knowledge about history, nature, religion, symbolism, popular culture, painterly tradition, alchemy, memes, combat sports, and middle-aged men, all while pushing the technical aspects of his practice as far as Earthly possible. And this is said with no intended humor or magnification cause such an exceptional drive has pushed this painter-gone-inventor to come up with the most incredible ways of both handling the oils and painting the most intense light, glow, surface, or volume effects, as well as developing innovative setups to produce ground-breaking monotypes. To be fair, only true painting/monotype nerds can understand the sheer awesomeness of his process and technique while the rest of us can simply enjoy the vibrancy of pigments, the clashes of realities, the clever references, and the realness of everything that comes through Van Minnen’s studio.

From Mystic Wipe Out, a mostly sculptural presentation which opened at NANZUKA 2G space, over Thought Forms at 3110NZ by LDH kitchen focusing on monotype works, to It Comes In Waves which occupy the 2 floors of NANZUKA UNDERGROUND, this is likely a milestone moment for Van Minnen. Book-worthy and not only a feature, these three presentations include 40+ new pieces combined together, and are featuring everything from signature takes on Dutch Golden Age portraits, brain-bending still life creations, extraordinary amalgamations of the two, alongside a series of hand painted surfboards, a small edition of bust sculptures, and game-changing monotype antics. “So many things are emerging, weaving, growing,” the artist told me recently describing what’s happening in this body of work, merely suggesting the complexity of visuals, concepts, tricks, and treats now on view in Tokyo. 

And indeed, after mastering such effects as tattooed skin, concrete surface, marble grain, jelly candy, or velvety smoothness, he is now mixing and clashing these, opening a literal maze of potential directions forward. Now sculpting flesh, tattooing marble, or simply sticking up a trompe l’oeil Post It notes on top of everything, Van Minnen is in a way challenging Japan’s often misinterpreted reputation as the home of “weird” or “bizarre”. Whether turning hand-shaped surfboards produced by the local shapers Mystic Surfboards into slabs of tattooed flesh sprinkled with candy, or purposely constructing among painters commonly hated corrugated surface as the background for his work, Van Minnen is clearly flexing his Hulk-like painting muscles while adding on even more weight for the next sess. Both blowing our minds and satisfying his own hunger for exploration, creation, and progress, he has created a body of work that is in a dynamic dialogue within each individual space and through the bustling megalopolis, smashing the common idea of being “lost in translation” with Godzilla-like casualness. – Sasha Bogojev