Ok, so by now you all know I’m a nerd and geek. I’ve been around the block with anime, usually based on manga. Good stuff, some of it.
As part of SAM’s recent Pop! Departures exhibit, I was treated to the new neo-pop show by Japanese artist Mr. (short for “Mister Giants” of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team). Walking into the gallery, I didn’t know what to expect. Anime? Manga? Hentai? A bit of everything? A retrospect? I was pleasantly surprised.
What happened was a breathtaking showing of a collective consciousness of the Japanese mindset for the past 30 years or so. A revisit to the 1980s, attention to the rebellious youth culture, increasingly virtual and fantasy worlds, and the devastating aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. The sense of skewed morality, generational differences, and intense hardships were present at almost every turn.
But I get ahead of myself. Last Thursday the Seattle Asian Art Museum held a little press event to showcase Mr.’s work. And mmm…cookies and tea. After an introduction, we were led on a guided tour, where Mr. explained his featured works and we could ask questions. This dude was a humble, thankful guy. Native to Japan, he seemed quietly excited to have his first exhibition in the U.S., and to be able to share his experiences. He said he spent his earlier career for ten to twenty years exploring the use of anime styles to convey the youth culture of rebellion and the move into fantasy and the virtual world, while his later works involve the use of trash for installations. He was inspired by Italian art, and felt that Italy and Japan went through similar cultural issues due to their defeats in World War II and the resulting poverty.
We started off in the installation room. The center held a huge installation of a pile of trash, with monitors affixed to it showing a multitude of images. Some of the images included Mr. himself in school girl cosplay, talking to the camera. I don’t think it was a sexuality thing, as he didn’t put in the effort we normally see from drag queens. Perhaps on a later visit I’ll hear what he was saying. The entire room was filled with installations, though, and sometimes it was hard to tell if there were separate pieces or if it was intended to be an entire room of the same, large piece. I didn’t hear what Mr. had to say about it, but the whole area gave off the sense of being closed in, of living cheaply in a small studio, and perhaps of the close quarters I imagine most of Tokyo lives with. It brings to image what effects the tsunami and earthquake would have had on such a dense population.
Two of my favorite pieces from Mr.’s earlier period were large canvas paintings. One was “Making Things Right (2006).” It featured a few anime-style ninja characters at the forefront of a landscape. With the emperor’s home in the background, most of the piece invoked an entire city of poverty, complete with mini-images inside word balloons. Mr. said it was about right vs. wrong, plain and simple. The ninjas who were hired by the government changed sides and fought for the people, with the sunset/sunrise behind them to convey hope. Someone asked why it was on panels of canvas rather than one large piece stretched on a frame, and Mr. stated that he created it when he was very poor, as the apprentice of Takashi Murakami. When the master would trim his canvasses, Mr. would take the trimmings to create his own works. If you see it up close, folks, you’ll appreciate the hard work and dedication it took to create.
The other fave of mine was called, “Journey.” Featuring more mixed media, Mr. said that it had originally been a clean image, but he wondered what would happen if he burned some of it. Laughing, he said he probably burned too much, so some of the pieces he salvaged he pasted back onto the canvas. Result: looks like a pretty dark commentary. It seems completely intentional, and I wonder if Mr. has delved into some of the darker parts of his brain that this piece could convey.
Some other pieces were explained as an attempt to define “moe,” which in Japan is an expression of an ideal of the exaggerated fantasy of adolescent innocence. Not quite sexual, but more of a longing for youthful energy. Juxtaposed with the other themes of youth rebellion, you have to wonder what the hell is going on. I mean that in a lighthearted way, because I’m not going to fill out this article analyzing art with hypotheticals and rhetoric.
All in all, the show opened my eyes. It was refreshing to see an artist so humble yet in tune with his work. I’ll probably go back to spend more time to truly understand the art, because different cultures are inspiring and not all learning is done from books. (Duh.)
What will you see? Go find out.
Korra Q is a Seattle-based nerd who plays fetch with her cat. She’s into sci-fi, un-sparkly vampires, and fictional chicks who kick ass. To support her habits, she’s the sassiest server you’ll ever order from.
Random musings: @Kittyslap27 on Twitter.
Dominic Arenas Photography is a growing company specializing in wedding, engagement, family, & event photography.