I’m not particularly fond of Takashi Murakami.
Well, that is, I wasn’t. Lets start by saying this; much like his contemporaries—Koons, Warhol—he may not be for everyone. But I’d challenge any nay sayers, myself included, to visit his exhibition currently showing at Gagosian Gallery. In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Trail of the Rainbow. Which is the name of the exhibition, and I have decided to make a complete sentence, is not to be underestimated. With a title like that, there comes expectation.
Gold, platinum, bright colors, nose hairs, gaping mouths, all the regular motifs with a few new and reimagined ones. Here in the Land of the Dead, Murakami leads us down a brightly reimagined inferno. There’s not enough Dextromethorphan and LSD Dante could have taken to bring a vision like Murakami’s to life. Skepticism melts in the face of these monolithic pieces. They are so large they bask in a world beyond and I find myself washing upon the shores of sound and atmosphere. They are hallucinatory and wonderful.
All this before I come around into the main room where Murakami and his legion of assistants have recreated a weathered pagoda! WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING? I’m not sure I haven’t fallen through the rainbow and wonder to myself if I’m still at Gagosian Gallery. Suddenly all these classic poppy Murakami colors, animated faces, and all my skepticism come into context. “That smart mother-fucker,” I think to myself. Suddenly all the subtle references to Asian landscape paintings and mandalas are not just modernistic reinterpretations. They combine and welcome each other. Murakami’s intelligence and respect shines through in his work.
The land, the dead, traveling through colors, reflecting on what was and what lay after, Murakami is no passionless sycophant. He is a troublemaker, a great thinker and artist. This show, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Trail of the Rainbow, expands the vernacular of Murakami and pop art. Here, death is joyous and beautiful, strange and new.
Efrem Zelony-Mindell is an artist who lives in New York. For more of his work click here …
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