Takashi Murakami, And Then x 6 (Red), 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 300 x 300 cm, IBM Art Collection, New York.
Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, born 1962, is internationally renowned for his playful negotiation of various artistic styles and traditions. Often combining Nihonga, a 19th-century Japanese painting style, with contemporary manga and Japanese pop culture, Murakami’s work is underpinned by a sharp wit. Drawing on his keen awareness of art history and contemporary visual culture, Murakami engages in a layered evaluation on consumer practices and contemporary life. Murakami coined the term “Superflat” to describe the cultural commentary and aesthetic preferences characteristic of his work. “Superflat” is a tribute to the two-dimensional style of some Japanese cartoons. Murakami has also explained the style as a reference to such high-tech devices as flat-screen televisions and computer monitors. The term also reflects the smashing of distinctions between fine art and commercial art, between high culture and low. Murakami told Interview, “In Japan, there is no high and there is no low. It’s all flat.” This work shows Murakami's signature image, Mr DOB, a hybrid cartoon figure, which is partially based on a stylized portrait of the artist himself. DOB is an abbreviation for ‘why,’ reflecting Murakami's critical attitude towards the emptiness of consumer society. The image’s flatness references traditional Japanese painting and links his work to the two-dimensional character of much contemporary media imagery and computer graphics. By drawing together Western styles, contemporary media and the subculture of otaku, Murakami is able to reflect on a variety of issues, such as the impact of technology and globalization, and their effect on national and individual identity.
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