In conjunction with the world premiere of his first full-length film, Jellyfish Eyes, on April 8th in Los Angeles, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is presenting a selection of new paintings and sculpture at Blum and Poe Gallery. Showcasing new techniques and styles that the artist has developed since his major exhibition of new work, Ego, which was on view in Doha, Qatar.
Exploring the Buddhist tales of the Arhats (those who have achieved Enlightenment and are no longer privy to the Karmic cycle of death and rebirth), Murakami presents a series of paintings depicting comically withered, decrepit monks and other characters inspired by the ancient techniques of nihonga painting.
In typical Murakami form, the ancient imagery of Japanese history is bent through the lens of contemporary pop culture, reshaping these ancient heroes of spiritual enlightenment into manga heroes, nearly parodic in the artist’s recontextualization of these sacred figures of the Buddhist folk tradition. Calling his distinctive approach “super flat” painting, the works have a fittingly singular feel, offering a perspective on mainstream culture and its imagery that serves as a mirror, forcing the viewer into a new recognition and reconsideration of Murakami’s position in the cultural landscape.
Also on view are a trio of sculptures by the artist, showcasing his continued exploration of the forms and themes he has developed over the past 20 years of work. In one work, the artist returns to his signature skull works, fusing a series of cartoonish skulls into a complexly layered, wall-mounted sculpture. In another room, the artist is exhibiting a new sculpture of himself and his dog, “Pom,” a recurring figure in his artworks. Depicting the two figures sleeping on on the floor, the work is an interesting take on reality for an artist so often concerned with his own fantastic images.
Continuing Murakami’s continued exploration and repositioning of Japanese pop culture, and its resultant effects on the national psych of his home country, Arhat serves as a fitting counterpoint to the screening of his debut film at LACMA. Paralleling new forms with his highly refined and distinctive style, Arhat allows the viewer a look at the artists continuing creative process as he branches into new territories.
Arhat is on view until May 25th.
— D. Creahan