Takashi Murakami has been a Japanese superstar artist for a while now, and even if you don’t know his name, you’d definitely recognize his creations, such as bright colored smiling flowers or ultra cute animal-like creatures, in the form of painting, sculpture (have you seen the ones in Versailles?) and on commercial products like Louis Vuitton bags.
I have actually met Mr. Murakami himself briefly when he visited Japan Society in NYC when he curated the show called Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture back in 2005. Wow, that was already 10 years ago?! Being from Japan myself, his style of characters naturally feels familiar to me. Walking down the streets of Tokyo, you can’t avoid seeing cute random characters everywhere. I can't claim to be a huge manga fan, but I grew up reading a fair amount and appreciate it. (Below from left: my best friend Vanessa, Mr. Murakami, and my younger self.)
In this exhibit In the land of the dead, stepping on the tail of a rainbow, Murakami takes a slightly different approach and explores the dark side. It's strongly tied to 3.11, the catastrophic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. He examines and contemplates art, religions and natural disasters.
When we walked into the gallery, we immediately saw a multi-ton replica of a sacred gate (sanmon) from the Heian period, guarded by two gargoyles (outside the frame here):
The sheer size of both the paintings and the sculptures is intense. Though impressive in scope, Murakami is as concerned with detail and symbolism. Impressive also to consider Murakami's gift at building a strong creative team to pull them off.
The entire wall facing you when you enter through the big portal is a large canvas of images:
If you’re in town this week and have not visited the exhibition, I recommend that you check it out as it’s closing this Saturday. Murakami succeeded in creating this show as shocking as he intended. It’s one of these exhibitions that you would be glad to have visited for the experience.
In the land of the dead, stepping on the tail of a rainbow
555 West 24th Street
November 10, 2014 – January 17, 2015