Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Takashi Murakami.
Beneath its bright and playful appearance, Murakami's art deftly challenges the established dichotomies of high art and popular culture, East and West, present and past, life and death, humor and gravity, skepticism and belief. Visually, his work merges the dystopic worlds of popular animé and manga cartoons with the ultra-refined techniques of traditional Nihonga painting.
The centerpiece of Murakami's compact exhibition is a vast and intricate five-panel painting, which possesses the intensity of such master works as Tan Tan Bo Puking - a.k.a. Gero Tan (2002). If the jaunty toons Kaikai and Kiki have come to be seen as avatars of the opposing aspects of Murakami's own character, then this immense and ambitious work, jostling with Kaikais and Kikis of every size, shape, and humor, can be interpreted to be his ultimate self-portrait, predicated on an identity that is very much of our time - culturally specific yet ambivalent, mercurial, and multiplicitous.
The Kaikai Kiki painting is flanked by new paintings in the Time Bokan series, begun in 1993. A key image in Murakami's oeuvre, the skull-shaped mushroom cloud is borrowed from the eponymous Japanese TV animé series from the 1970s. The cloud symbolized the villains' demise at the end of each episode, although they would reappear, unfailingly, in the next, to the delight of their young audience. Although the creators of the animé series could not have intended to send a positive message about the atomic bombing of Japan, let alone a safe return from it, the invincible villains became great favorites with children. By reviving this powerful image of Manichean paradox as a form of vanitas in relation to self-portraiture, Murakami provides a bold interpretation of a classical genre within a wholly new iconography.
Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo University of the Arts (formerly known as the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki, an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami's art and related work, Kaikai Kiki functions as a supportive environment for the fostering of young Japanese artists. Murakami is also a curator, a cultural entrepreneur, and a critical observer of contemporary Japanese society. In 2000, he organized a paradigmatic exhibition of Japanese art titled Superflat, which traced the origins of contemporary Japanese visual pop culture in historical Japanese art. He has continued this work in subsequent impactful exhibitions such as Coloriage (Fondation Cartier pour l'art Contemporain, Paris, 2002) and Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subcultures (Japan Society, New York, 2005).
Murakami's most recent major solo exhibitions at leading institutions such as Fondation Cartier pour l'art Contemporain, Paris and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2002); Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2001); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2001); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007), which traveled to the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt and opens at Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao February of 2009. Murakami currently lives and works in Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles.