Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Takashi Murakami Versus Himself

Murakami's caricature of himself vomiting with happy flowers behind him
Last week my colleagues and I had a chance to see the latest Takashi Murakami show being held at Tai Kwun Contemporary that runs until September 1 minus the hordes of crowds. I saw his show last year at the Vancouver Art Gallery called The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, and none of the pieces in there were in this exhibition in Hong Kong.

Entitled Murakami vs Murakami, this show gives another side of the artist that are on a more personal level, as well as site-specific pieces, sculptures, animation, costumes and even carpet! Visitors had to wear shoe covers in order to tour the exhibition as there are two rooms covered with Murakami carpet!

The curious The Birth of a Universe sculpture in gold
We were advised to go to the third floor then walk down and the first room had carpet covered in colourful skulls. In the middle of the large room is a giant gold leaf sculpture called The Birth Cry of a Universe after Murakami worked on it for 10 years.

It's several layers of creatures with nasty spiky teeth, collapsing on top of each other. Why one would make it in gold... is it meant to be ironic? Bling bling? Grotesque yet grand? We don't quite know what to make of it.

The next room is filled with mannequins all looking uniform in orange jumpsuits, and there are pieces from Murakami's own personal art collection. There are photographs of Larry Gagosian, prints of illustrations by Andy Warhol, some strange pieces of sushi that have images of women on them...

After walking down the spiral staircase we were immediately taken by the several costumes the Japanese artist designed -- with him as the mannequin in white complete with glasses, white beard and white hair. He is making fun of himself wearing them in various poses and they're hilarious.

Murakami being eaten by Mr DOB
He's dressed in a giant ball covered in his famous smiling flowers and he's even wearing a sunflower headdress complete with green leggings and even sneakers covered in his signature sunflowers. In another one he has a hot pink octopus on his head and a colourful suit with octopus arms on the blazer. Maybe Murakami should design his own line of clothing...

Even better he is being eaten by one his own creatures Mr DOB, actually Murakami's alter ego, or wearing what looks like a massive kimono but really it's a humungous polo shirt of his happy flowers, funky pants and giant slippers. His creativity really knows no bounds.

Another room features the superflat flowers. Murakami's theory of superflat refers to not only the perspectival flatness on the picture plane in Japanese art, but also the rejection of hierarchical divisions between high and low art, and of society itself.

This room is also covered in carpet featuring every possible shade of his flowers from red, green, blue and yellow that are all coded with numbers... it's really nerdy! There are giant sunflower cushions to sit on and watch a Murakami animation that is so absurd I burst out laughing when a creature that was terrorizing a city spewed out a giant piece of turd... thank goodness we couldn't smell it!

Cute (but expensive) flower cushions on the flower carpet
I also love the way Murakami is very willing to make fun of himself and the way he looks. There's a caricature of him vomiting some colourful stuff from his mouth, his eyes looking glazed. The walls were covered in the flower wallpaper and one of my colleagues thinks superfan Murakami collectors probably have the same wallpaper on their walls... how crazy is that?

The final room is a serene departure from the previous one, though it's completely covered in gold. In a way it harks back to Warhol's Silver Factory, but up several notches with the wow factor. There's a giant gold sculpture called Flower Parent and Child, a caricature of Murakami raising his right hand in salute with his dog Pom, the first creature with whom he could really express his love -- even though he is married...

Murakami vs Murakami is such a curious exhibition that reveals so many facets of the artist and his evolution of work. His mind must be going non-stop with so many ideas that he has to have a giant team of people to execute them all -- brilliantly too.

A gold sculpture of Murakami and dog Pom
He and Jeff Koons are the two artists who don't physically have a hand in every single piece of work they produce, and yet they claim them as their own. However it's no different from artists from other periods in history who relied on apprentices to help them too.

Nevertheless the size, scale and various mediums Murakami produces is staggering and doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.

Murakami vs Murakami
June 1-September 1, 2019
Tai Kwun Contemporary
10 Hollywood Road
Tai Kwun Contemporary

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