Beyond Ultraman @ PMCA, Murakami @ MOCA
My trip to Los Angeles for the holidays wouldn't have been complete without attending two of the most intriguing exhibits on pop-culture currently in California; Beyond Ultraman, (Oct 10 - Jan 6), and Murakami (Oct 29 - Feb 11).
Beyond Ultraman exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art featured 7 famous artists of vinyl toy culture. From the distinct styles of "Homies" creator David Gonzales, to "Gama-Go" Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, Bossy Bear, and more, this was one of the best vinyl toy exhibits I have attended to date. Ultraman became the representative for the vinyl culture in this informative show, and gallery-goers were treated to a wide array of toy collections and paintings all in one space. It soon became clear that these artists -- whose creations have become synonymous with their Brand -- were influenced in one way or another by Japanese Monsters, seen on television shows like Ultraman.
POP CULTURE OVERLOAD, it made sense to checkout Murakami, after attending Beyond Ultraman, just not on the same day.
I almost wasn't able to make it to the MURAKAMI exhibit located in LA's Little Tokyo District, due to poor last minute planning and transportation issues, but thankfully I got my ass to the Museum of Contemporary Art. MOCA is definitely located in the perfect place, surrounded by noodle shops, electronics and everything else you'd find in Tokyo, the exhibit itself feels right at home.
To the untrained eye, Murakami's work may seem like that of any other ani-manga artists out there, featuring much of the same themes found throughout decades of manga and Japanese animation, but Murakami stands on his own as a master of the "super-flat" style and is a leader in pop-art. His artwork isn't all that unique, being most casual and hardcore anime viewers, have seen stuff like this before... art ranging from Adult-Content (transforming naked girls), to cutesy and kiddy cartoons, one might think of him as a "sexist pig", (as one woman put it) or just simply a pervert, or a genius.
He is a master of merchandising, from T-shirts to Louis Vuitton bags. He has been embraced by the western world as something hip, cool, and trendy, especially to the LA art scene, and to entertainers like Kanye West. Murakami's work plays to the stereotype we all think of, when thinking of Japanese artists -- Cute, yet sexual-- it's unfortunate, for someone with such a huge presence and influence, the art itself doesn't seem all too intellectually stimulating. But his work still remains "cool" to the majority of contemporary art lovers, and has inspired many artists to follow his style, and footsteps by turning "art" into a Brand..
One of the highlights of this amazing exhibit was not only an on going screening of the Kanye West music video "Good Morning", but the 3D cel-shaded animation "Kaikai & Kiki", a humorous duo, and the live-action "Inochi" about an adolescent boy and his crush on a school girl. As well Gallery-goers were also treated to a trailer of sorts to the live-action project "Dharma", which left most people wondering what the fuck it was they just saw.
For exclusive video and walkthrough tour with Murakami himself, be sure to visit the MOCA MURAKAMI site.