Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop
Nov 22 2014 – Apr 5 2015
Asian Art Museum
The devastating disaster of the March 11, 2011 tsunami and the nuclear accident afterwards were both a shock and inspiration for Japanese Neo-Pop artist Mr. In response, he composed a massive installation made of hundreds of everyday objects from Japanese life. It’s the central work in this exhibition, presented here with a series of new paintings and other work. A reminder of the debris that blanketed the Tohoku area in the aftermath of 3.11 tsunami and earthquake, the installation embodies the post-disaster fear and frustration of the Japanese people since the catastrophic events.
Live On, which is organized by SAM, presents Mr.’s art of the past 15 years and is his first solo exhibition in a U.S. museum. Born in 1969, Mr. is a protégé of Takashi Murakami, internationally acclaimed icon of Japanese Pop art. He borrowed the name “Mr.” from “Mister Giants” (Shigeo Nagashima), the superstar clean-up hitter of the postwar Yomiuri Giants baseball team.
Having grown up during Japan’s postwar “economic miracle” period, Mr. often exercises his art as a weapon against social expectations. As a member of the otaku subculture, his work ties closely with the lifestyle, which is marked by obsessive interests in anime and manga and being confined in one’s room with limited interactions with other people. He says,
I’ve had one eye on anime since the day I was born.
The exhibition includes a group of Mr.’s new works that take kawaii (cute) Japanese Pop art to a new dimension, known as moe (which literally means budding). Through fictional, adorable characters, moe speaks to a longing for youth, or youthful energy. It grew out of Japanese youth subculture, and its rebellion against authority and political engagement in favor of fantasy and virtual experience.
While Mr.’s art often appears playful at first—even cheerful—its veneer of bright imagery expresses darker themes and addresses anxiety. The works seen here offer his personal and artistic responses to trauma—whether natural disaster, war, psychological angst, or social anxiety—and demonstrate defiance against such adversity.
I had a last minute urge to trek up to the Asian Art Museum on one of my last days in Seattle. I am so glad I did. Even though I missed the above ‘Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop’, from what I viewed as part of a press preview looked like a stunning exhibit. It’s always nice to see a fun exhibit in the midst of floors filled with classical work and dollops of modern art.
Upon my visit to the Asian Art Museum, I fell in love with the ‘Mughal Painting: Power and Piety’ in the Foster Galleries. The ‘Hamza outside the Fortress of Armanus, 1567-82, Mir Sayyid ‘ali, Persian, active 16th c., opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, 34 15/16 x 28 3/4in. (88.8 x 73cm), Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Richard E. Fuller’. It ached of layers of imagery, ornate handiwork, Mughal rulers and notables. The other portraits depicted a ruler’s supremacy with his personal accouterments—daggers, rings, necklaces—crafted from luxurious materials and inlaid with jewels. Bling and more bling!
At the end of your museum visit, make sure you find time to walk around Volunteer Park. It’s a gorgeous property and I found myself swooning in the autumn sun at trees galore.
Asian Art Museum
1400 East Prospect Street Seattle, WA 98112
206.654.3100 & TTY 206.344.5267