Award-winning artist, director and founder of childrens’ content company YATATOY Lucas Zanotto brought his playful geometric creatures to life in his first solo exhibition, “MOODS.” The multimedia exhibition hosted by M:87 opened on December 28 in St. Mary’s Hall, formerly a Christian all-girls school, in Shanghai, China.
Best known for his googly-eyed kinetic characters and his work with animation, Zanotto combines his expertise in digital art and sculpting to bring audiences a space separated into seven zones featuring life-sized physical sculptures, computer-generated imagery (CGI), projection, art merchandise, an augmented reality installation in collaboration with Acute Art and more.
Born in Northern Italy, Zanotto has lived and worked in various European cities but is currently based in Helsinki, Finland. He has garnered international praise for his work, including an Apple Design Award, a Golden Lion in Cannes and Best Promotional Animation at Ottawa Animation Festival. Zanotto has also worked with corporations like Amazon.com Inc. and Google LLC.
His previous work includes collaborating with Annie Atkins, an author and designer of graphic objects for film, to create a commemoration of Wimbledon’s history through 2D animation and stop-motion, an installation that toys with the movement of eyes, a series of animated “minimals” and more.
His company YATATOY is known for its best-selling apps, like BANDIMAL, a music composition tool for kids; and DRAWNIMAL, a tool that doubles as a drawing and alphabet-learning tool. YATATOY also launched the first of a book series, “MAXIMAL,” with New York publisher Callaway.
TMS caught up with Zanotto to pick his brain about his first solo exhibition and his path as an artist.
The road to “MOODS”
Animation is not a new field for Lucas Zanotto, as he’s had a successful commercial career working with major brands and companies. “I have worked in animation in a commercial context for a long time where I produced and directed animations for brands such as Google and Amazon,” says Zanotto. “But four years ago I began posting my short video loop animations to Twitter and other social media platforms.”
This shift kickstarted a busy period of new projects for Zanotto. “The last two years have been incredible as I got a chance to work on a lot of exciting projects,” he says. “I worked with some major brands and could start working on my own name as a brand. I had the opportunity to put my first collection of [non-fungible token] NFT loops on Nifty Gateway which was sold in a matter of a few minutes!”
The making of “MOODS”
“When M:87 reached out to collaborate with me on a solo exhibition, I was thrilled to showcase my digital work in a physical space,” says Zanotto. “In MOODS, I wanted to offer a full multimedia experience and give visitors a chance to fully immerse themselves and enjoy interacting with every medium.”
Exhibition-goers found themselves staring up at a flock of inflatable characters and floating balloon characters as they crossed the lawn to enter the church. Zanotto’s iconic eyes stare at visitors from the windows and the entrance. His social media-famous kinetic videos loop on the church’s walls, framed within nine arches.
Visitors could also immerse themselves in a black box that showcased Zanotto’s animation work or simply stroll through the maze of sculptures. Much of the art was even interactive. Though “MOODS” explodes with childlike colors and motion, it doesn’t overwhelm.
“My animation characters are created using a minimalist approach with simple, geometric shapes and bright colours,” explains Zanotto. “With this, I wanted to show how you can capture universal emotions from a very simple form, and I did that simply by using two round white circles and a black dot in the middle for the eyes and geometric lines for the smile. I really love to prioritise reducing things to the minimum. I think simplicity is more impactful.”
Zanotto’s light-hearted exhibition moved beyond the NFT realm to offer fans 50 limited-edition sets of sculptures. Five classic characters make up the collection. Their names sound like baby babbling: “Ohhh,” “Mhhh,” “Ahhh,” “Ehhh” and “Uhhh.”
“I want to stay somewhere on the edge between physical and digital art,” says Zanotto. “I do enjoy every medium and like to create a universal language. I do have some upcoming projects with major brands as well, but I will take this period now to work mostly on my own projects.”
Zanotto loves to work with clients but stresses the importance of artistic freedom. When expression becomes lost in corporate ideology, its meaning is diminished.
Although the “MOODS” exhibition in Shanghai has ended, you can follow Lucas Zanotto on Instagram (@lucas_zanotto) or check out his website to view more of his projects and stay tuned for future artistic endeavors.
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