The New Millennium Pop Art
The Murakami exhibition, on display at the Brooklyn Museum, is the new millennium’s incarnation of Pop Art. In true consumerist style, rather than just producing statements towards the absurdity of art as a commodity, where the only commodity is the art piece itself. Murakami takes pop art to its logical conclusion; he markets his work as mass-produced consumer goods. High-end Bags, T-shirts, or figurines are some of the forms his artwork takes on.
Even as you pass through the exhibition the dichotomy of the two worlds of art and consumerism is blatantly juxtaposed with the addition of a Louis Vuitton mini store right in between the galleries. The clean, model-cum-salesperson laden mini LV showroom is full of Takashi Murakami bag designs, ranging from lipstick cases to schoolgirl lunch boxes; along with many a gold hardware adorned sachet that any rich girl would be proud of.
Takashi Murakami displays a masterful manipulation of contemporary iconography with his Louis Vuitton pieces and paintings. The first painting, of lively cartoon figures and colorful layers of VL logos, is arresting; with different bubbles presenting different ranges of view from very closeup, to the logos, to very far away. This gives the piece a fun flow and sense of motion. One of the reasons Murakami successfully lives in these two worlds of fine art and consumerism is because…
he keeps his thematic choices, all at once, both serious and playful. His mushroom paintings are playful, colorful, childlike, amorphous and draw you into their world.
Yet, these are no beguine mushrooms just representing the fungi’s long revered gastronomic qualities, or connotations of the ephemeral; they are also a direct reference the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Murakami attempts to reconcile the atrocities of nuclear annihilation with the benefits of being forcibly severed from empirical rule and directed into a consumerist culture by the U.S. occupation.
While most all his recent work’s themes seem to relate directly to these defining attacks, like choices of conscience or morality, in his earlier work Murakami makes use of the very Japanese ‘Manga’ (playful drawings) or “Chaos” aesthetic. He achieved this by depicting multiple angles on each canvas while cinematically zooming and cropping.
Murakami, continuing these explorations, realizes his vision with a more traditional sculptural presentation. He brings the viewer onto a 3-D realm, with pieces like ‘lonesome cowboy’ a nude male figure ejaculating a lasso of seminal fluid around himself. Here, and with a similar piece using breast milk, he fully exploits the Japanese fetish for bodily fluids. Technology and humanity mesh in his later transformation sculptures featuring a transforming nude female robot/fighter jet. Decidedly more tame, the last paintings in the exhibition display an articulation of his aesthetic that references the Japanese painting and calligraphy traditions.
Murakami’s world is one of robotic girls and boys, Louis Vitton logos with eyes, mirthfully masked mushrooms, menacing teethed toys, rooms full of flowers, skulls, and eyes with characters both good and evil there to greet you. His exhibition is an experience, one that will make you feel productive on an otherwise lazy springtime Sunday afternoon.