Professor Christina Spiker gave a teaching demo on February 19th titled "Bye Bye Kitty: Issues in Cntemporary Japanese Art" where she discussed the direction that Japanese art has been taking over the past five years. This was an exciting topic for me to learn about since I had a lot of associations regarding Japanese visual culture but knew few contemporary artists other than Takashi Murakami.
Takashi Murakami at Miami Art Basel, 2008
Spiker explained that the art world has taken a dramatic shift with the last five years, and that current trends are steering away from the *kawaii* optimism common in Japanese visual culture, observable in Takashi's smiling flowers. Artists that Spiker presented, such as Ikeda Manabu and Aida Makoto are combining past and present visual trends to make social and political statements. The Tohoku earthquake and tsumnami played a role in this mental shift as well as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Spiker described the show "Bye Bye Kitty: Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art" that took place in 2011, the year of these catastrophes, and encouraged us to look into the upcoming exhibition "In the Wake: Japanese photographers respond to 3/11" which will take place March of this year.
detail of Foretoken, Ikeda Manabu, 2013
Ash Colour Mountains, Aida Makoto
During an interactive point in her lecture, Spiker had students compare images of well-known Japanese prints to the works of Contemporary artists. Aida Makoto and Ikeda Manadu create works in such incredible detail that are are very conceptually compelling. Ash Colour Mountains utilizes the form of Mount Fuji, a common symbol in Japanese prints, and Foretoken takes the form of the Wave of Kaganawa (1829-1832) (a classic dorm room poster). Looking closely at Ash Colour Mountains one can see that the mountain is made out of what seems like infinite disposable work men, in khaki pants and white t-shirts. Foretoken is made up of elements of a cosmopolitan Japanese city and can be understood as a commentary on garbage. I think that both of these works are provocative in the way that they are able to present bleak themes in such an aesthetically pleasing and tasteful way. Both of these works are massive (Ash Colour Mountains in 10 meters wide) and they would be quite an experience to see in person, compared to on a computer screen.
detail of Ash Colour Mountains