ArtObserved reminded me of a work I saw recently and wanted to share, if only because it strikes me as such a departure from how I thought of the artist. Entitled Picture of Fate: I Am But a Fisherman Who Angles In the Darkness of His Mind, Takashi Murakami has taken over the wall of Gagosian’s 24th Street location. This painting is massive, intricately colored and textured, with a storyline from Japanese legend.
When I saw the Murakami exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, including the work above, I was totally turned off. His paintings there were done in saturated color in a super flat style, and accompanied by a Luois Vuitton boutique no less.
This new painting is interesting to look at, which I couldn’t have said before. I’m not saying the skulls and dopey-faced lion aren’t kitsch or that the colors don’t straddle a line between apocalyptic sewage and Rainbow Bright. But the surface and the application of paint is beautifully done. It’s worth seeing in person just to marvel at the texures. This may or may not be a saving grace, but it certainly counts for something.
Some reviewers have commented about how the aging artist is seriously wrangling with the themes of death and mortality. This is hogwash. Just because the painting delves beyond otaku culture into older Chinese and Japanese symbolism (or the artist says he is tired) doesn’t necessarily make it weightier or more personal. Murakami does not produce earnest, lyric art; he maunfactures an appealing and accessible view of Asian culture with a pop sensibility. That is what I see in his latest picture, and that is what I see in clips from his latest project, a music video remix of Turning Japanese with Kristin Dunst:
Sidenote: The rest of the gallery is devoted to works in the spirit of the 80s ala gold lamé MC Hammer pants. Enter at your own risk.