In 1986, the child of a friend contracted HIV from a tainted blood transfusion. This event shocked Teraoka and impelled him to turn his attention to the escalating terrors and tragedies of the AIDS epidemic. His AIDS series, which began in 1987 and continues today, includes some of Teraoka's most thought-provoking and best -known works.
Raised in a family of textile designers, he was exposed to a wide range of artistic influences from a very young age. After studying art and aesthetics at Kwansei Gakuin University in Kobe, Teraoka moved to the United States in 1961 and earned a BA and MFA from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.
Teraoka first began to develop his signature fusion of Japanese ukiyo-e and American Pop Art in Los Angeles during the early 1970s, and by the mid-1970s was exhibiting regularly in group and solo exhibitions throughout southern California. He gained national recognition in 1976 in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and, in 1979, was given a major solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Following the successful Whitney exhibition, Teraoka relocated to Hawaii, where the geological location and ethnic diversity seemed better suited to his position on the cusp between two cultures.
Over the next 15 years Teraoka produced prolifically, and his works were shown at and collected by major museums and galleries all over the world. In 1996, at the age of 60, he was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Over the course of his long career, Teraoka's style and range of subjects have developed and broadened considerably. The most recent twist in Teraoka's career occurred after the artist's trip to Europe in 1992. Inspired by the surreal imagery of the Netherlandish painter Hieronymous Bosch and other Northern European Mannerist and late Gothic artists, Teraoka began experimenting with a darker palette and with more apocalyptic, visionary subjects. Although the style of these later paintings is completely different from his early work, the familiar themes of alienation, suffering, and violence still predominate. Ultimately, despite the many stylistic and thematic changes Teraoka's work has undergone through the years, its underlying confrontational sensibility has remained a constant that unifies his entire oeuvre.
  CHARLES MASON is the curator of Asian Art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum.