Recently, members of the AnimeChicago attended the Murakami exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of an Art Circle Meetup. We’ve gathered together some of our thoughts on the exhibit. (Once again, names have been removed to protect the innocent.)
1) Overall, what was your impression of the exhibit?
One board member went at length on how they felt about the exhibit:
“First off, the MCA did a fantastic job on this expansive and ambitious project. Many pieces were collected from many public, private, and the artist’s own collection, which must have been a huge undertaking.
The hyper visuals are mesmerizing. They entice casual viewers quickly, and get you thinking about his meticulous technique and passion for large scale work. But the themes also get a bit uncomfortable so I can see why someone might want to rush through. I suspect some more provocative pieces were excluded to keep it accessible for general audiences.
Murakami’s dark themes would also resonate with seasoned modern art patrons. Expect conversations around as toxic consumerism, disdain of high art culture, and desperation in response to Fukushima.”
Other members were less verbose, but still positive:
“I loved it! I think one of the things that is not well publicized about this exhibition is the sheer size of the art. Murakami has massive pieces, and yet the level of detail is top notch. I also like how self reflective he is regarding his work, commercialism, and what it means to be an artist.”
“I was pleasantly surprised by how well thought out and massive the exhibit was. Going in, I wasn’t expecting too much, since I wasn’t certain how much of Murakami’s work the MCA would be able to get, but this exhibit blew me away. It’s a great exhibit for anyone interested in modern art and illustration.”
2) What was your favorite piece in the exhibit?
“I don’t like Mr. DOB, which is probably the desired reaction. So Tan Tan Bo Puking caught me by surprise. The coked-out color palette complements its grotesque citizens, strongly conflating Japanese pop culture and consumerism with modern global self-destruction. It has all the elements that a graphic designer and anime fan like myself appreciates. I sensed his obsession, loathing, and cheeky irony throughout the remainder of the exhibit starting with this piece.”
“I’m forgetting the name of the pieces at the moment, but the traditional-looking Japanese flower paintings were by far my favorite. It had a great blend of modern, poppiness while still borrowing heavily from art history.”
“The octopus eats it’s own leg.” (Editor’s Note: This is the new piece made for the MCA exhibit)
A few members like one piece in particular:
“The giant dragon! I took a picture of it and posted it to our AnimeChicago FB page. It is huge and beautiful and I want it as a dress. (Although, I’d never be able to afford it– a scarf of this image goes for over $200)”
“(*cough* Kanye West *cough*) Probably the long blue dragon. It took me a few minutes to get that it was actually one big painting!”
3) What surprised you the most about the exhibit?
This is where our members got a bit more diverse in their answers.
“I had a hard time differentiating between the curator’s voice and the artist’s voice at the start. But as I wondered on, the work culminated into the artist’s inner monologue which touched on frustration to desperation to reverence, all themes that resonate with an artist like myself.”
“I was surprised at how intentional Murakami was with his art. Even when retreading well known themes, characters, ideas, or events, he managed to very clearly display his own opinions and feelings through innovative art. Everything was instantly recognizable and yet new and exciting.“
“Murakami’s studio – where he employs a whole team of artists to help him with these extremely large works. It reminded me so much of the great manga artists and their studios aiding their vision. Believe me, these paintings are very, very large.”
“Murakami’s direction towards traditional art after Fukushima”
“The drastic change in tone halfway through the exhibit.”
4) Would you recommend the exhibit to other anime fans?
“Absolutely. As Miyazaki has critiqued, anime fans obsess with the comforts of their anime bubbles, which prevents them from maturing their world views and reinventing themselves. Murakami has a similar critique but it’s a little different… he’s an anime fan himself. You really see his struggle of loving and loathing unfold throughout his career.”
“Totally! While the style is definitely modern the themes (tragedy, comedy, the absurd); character call outs (Sonic the Hedgehog, Pokémon, Doraemon); and the use of Japanese spiritual themes; make this a must see for any anime fan. It’s a beautiful exhibition and you could visit it multiple times and see something new each time. “
“Oh hell yes. There are a lot of shutouts to anime and manga all throughout his art and you can see how he has inspired a lot of artists and creators himself.”
“Yes but read up on his thesis and think critically about the art.”
“Absolutely – anime fans will find something to love immediately, and everyone else will appreciate it from a broader artistic perspective.”
It appears the Murakami exhibit is well worth your time if you’re still on the fence. It runs through the end of September at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.