Not as widely publicized in the western world, 2011 Earthquake of Tohoku is remembered as one of the biggest disasters in the recent history of Japan, with close to 16,000 casualties, over 6,000 injured and more than 2,500 missing. Marking an evident conceptual shift in Takashi Murakami’s career, a major natural disaster seems to have ignited novel works dedicated to his perceptions of natural state of chaos. Drawing inspiration from the human inclination to explain the inescapable natural catastrophes by delving into religious mysteries, the acclaimed artist depicts his own visions of ‘making sense’ of things. Spiritually charged works dominate his oeuvre in the last couple of years, and his upcoming exhibition at Gagosian Gallery will continue the idea recently displayed in The Cycle of Arhat exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan, Italy.
As the artist sees religious answers as narratives, his upcoming show, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, is entitled alluding to the outlook. Confrontation of eclectic pictoriality, the flat and sculptural, the culturally inherited and contemporary, influences of the East and the West merge into one recognizable visual language, with elements of pop, anime, and chromatic psychedelia. Throughout the series, Murakami endeavors in connecting the real and the ethereal, by presenting visual possibilities of accepted beliefs. Media he employs is in coherence with his expression, as classical painting is combined with new technologies, incorporating contextually appropriate fragments and allusions freely.
Although the conceptual change of Murakami’s art is there, he still uses subjects he devised while being concentrated on the consumerism and the speed of our age. We find melting replicas of his signature fictional character, Mr. Dob, standing along with karajishi, the mythic lions that guard Japanese Buddhist temples. These figures will adorn Murakami’s on-site installation, an expansive replica of sanmon, the sacred gate, weighing 56 tons. Sanmon leads the way through to the noble arhats, spiritual guardians of teachings of Buddha, paradisal entities that are to balance the universal chaos. Much of artistic practice of Takashi Murakami comes from Japanese tradition of early modern era, when the far-east counterparts of Western Romanticism created their innovative expression. Arhats were depicted by Kano Kazunobu, the 19th century Japanese artist, who was, just like Murakami, inspired by the Great Asei Edo Earthquake of 1855.
Still, Murakami’s belief system is entirely contemporary, as is his visual language, while leaning on the historically notable period is a common postmodern trait. He places all the sentiments, experiences, myths and ideals into one spiritual realm, summoned because of the disaster, providing an explosive comforting zone for meditation and acceptance. The artist doesn’t shy of putting self-portraits in his works, placing himself among the demons and the godlike, the Buddhist and Shinto emblems, emphasizing the power of his own cataclysmic awareness.
Exploring the role and significance of religious faith, and the inevitability of death or catastrophic events, Takashi Murakami highlights the existential agony of humankind. In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow will open at Gagosian Gallery in New York on November 10, 2014 and it will remain on view through January 17, 2015, highlighting metaphysical observations of Superflat inventor and the favorite artist of celebrity collectors.
Takashi Murakami recently made a portrait of Pharrell and his wife for the producer’s GIRL exhibition, and finished his first feature film entitled Jellyfish Eyes.
Although much of psychedelic elements can be traced in his work, the true psychedelic art is related to other notions, about which you can read in the Spaced Out article.