Organized by artist Takashi Murakami with MOCA, the exhibition will feature painting, photography, works on paper, video, computer animation, fashion, cartoons, and sculpture by some of the most provocative artists working in Japan. Superflat has been exhibited in Tokyo and Nagoya, and the MOCA installation, coordinated by MOCA research assistant Michael Darling, will be the first outside of Japan.
The MOCA Gallery at the Pacific Design Center
Superflat surveys a tendency in Japanese art, animation, fashion, and graphic design towards two-dimensionality through work by 19 artists. Organized by artist Takashi Murakami with MOCA, the exhibition will feature painting, photography, works on paper, video, computer animation, fashion, cartoons, and sculpture by some of the most provocative artists working in Japan. Superflat has been exhibited in Tokyo and Nagoya, and the MOCA installation, coordinated by MOCA research assistant Michael Darling, will be the first outside of Japan.
Superflat includes new projects as well as work from the 1980s and 1990s. The exhibition will have representative work by Chiho Aoshima, Bome, Enlightenment (Hiro Sugiyama), groovisions, Yoshinori Kanada, Henmaru Machino, Koji Morimoto, Mr., Takashi Murakami, Katsushige Nakahashi, Yoshitomo Nara, Shigeyoshi Ohi, Masafumi Sanai, SLEEP, Chikashi Suzuki, Aya Takano, Kentaro Takekuma, Hitoshi Tomizawa, and 20471120.
A central influence on the concept of Superflat is the Japanese cartoon culture of manga where enthusiasts are lured into a magical world that is divorced from reality. The insistent two-dimensionality of manga often results in an overall patterning of colors and shapes which provides a parallel space in which to escape from the pressures and expectations of society at large. All of the artists in Superflat work between the established boundaries of their respective genres, for instance where fine art photography meets commercial photography, where painting meets illustration, or where fashion meets theatrical costuming. The "super" in Superflat not only emphasizes the planar qualities of much of the work, but also denotes a special, charged characteristic or attitude. With Superflat Murakami suggests a broader definition of contemporary art in Japan and the wide range of activity within the exhibition can be seen as a direct challenge to the traditional borders and hierarchies between cultural genres.
Contemporary artists have explored and expanded the two-dimensional medium of anime or Japanese animation. Koji Morimoto, known for the opening animation for MTV Japan, has made sketches and animations inspired by 17th century Japanese scrolls and statues. Yoshinori Kanada's Goodbye to Galaxy Express 999 (1981) is an early example of intense animation where each of the 24 frames per second has unique movement and imagery. His graphic elements also reflect the traditional images in woodblock prints of Mt. Fuji and Japanese landscape by Katsushika Hokusai. Hitoshi Tomizawa's milk closet (2000) shows the evolution of flat squares into the face of a girl whose features are indicative of Western influences. Tomizawa's particular style of manga is emblematic of a culture which often prefers to retreat into the two-dimensional space of fantasy rather than deal with the problems of three-dimensional reality.
In photography, Shigeyoshi Ohi's striking black and white photographs of projections of an image of a carp on a waterfall embodies both traditional images with contemporary execution. Katsushige Nakahashi's airplane sculpture made of photographs, Zero Type 52/Los Angeles (2001) is subsequently burned in a ceremonial performance evoking the trauma of World War II and literally reducing it to "zero." Masafumi Sanai and Chikashi Suzuki both photograph contemporary Japanese life while infusing their work with commercial and fine art techniques.
Fashion has also had a significant impact on contemporary Japanese culture. 20471120 is a clothing line as well as a performance group that stages elaborate large-scale fashion shows that invite audience participation. The name comes from designer Masahiro Nakagawa's prediction that "something will happen on November 20, 2047" and the brand's mantra is "fashion, art, and character." Graphic design firm groovisions have created a persona known as Chappie who appears on multiple products and in an infinite supply of fashionable outfits. Though these boys and girls wear clothes that distinguish themselves from each other, their facial characteristics remain exactly the same.
Though kawaii or cute imagery is predominant in Japanese pop culture, some artists have "corrupted" them with often sexual and violent content. Bome's female characters embody fantasy personas such as the schoolgirl and cat while Henmaru Machino's drawings of hybrid humans have sometimes overwhelming displays of genitalia. Digital illustrator Chiho Aoshima's cute girls usually cannot escape the violence commonly seen in animation and video games. Yoshitomo Nara's drawings and sculptures of children with oversized features are oftentimes featured in adult scenarios. Kentaro Takekuma has used the friendly and familiar imagery of Thomas the Tank Engine in a project aimed at deterring suicidal commuters from jumping in front of trains.
The Japanese are known for the speed and agility with which they embrace new sensibilities as well as identities. Aya Takano deals with this concept in her colorful paintings of women that are influenced by historical geisha portraits as well as the popular fascination with "Lolita" girls who are nubile, sexually suggestive teens that populate shopping malls and manga comics. Multi-media artist Mr. also takes up the subject of Lolitas in his wall paintings, videos, and watercolors on the back of his daily receipts. Hiro Sugiyama, known as Enlightenment, flattens portraits of Japanese businessmen and pop culture figures into large-scale graphics that are often wall size.
Murakami has risen to prominence in the West during the past few years with his finely crafted sculpture and paintings. In 1999, he had a solo exhibition at the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum at Bard College and in 2000 he was included in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh and a solo exhibition at P.S.1 in New York. His early work will be featured in the upcoming MOCA exhibition Public Offerings, scheduled to open April 1, 2001.
Superflat has been made possible in part by the Pacific Design Center and the Peter Norton Family Foundation. In-kind support has been provided by Canon. br>
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