Murakami in Brooklyn

I walked into a room at the Brooklyn Museum that was covered, floor to ceiling, in smiling flowers. There were smiling flower paintings mounted on the flowered walls. In the middle of the room sat a huge, shiny plastic sculpture of smiling flowers. Smiling at me. It was all so happy it almost made me nauseous.

That was just one of the unexpected reactions I had to the ©Murakami exhibit currently on at the Brooklyn Museum. Almost all of his work did effect me in some way, mostly because it was so big. Many of his classic paintings are massive – they make you feel tiny, like Monet’s Waterlilies that I had seen the day before at the MOMA. And like Monet’s work, it was as if I had stepped into someone else’s dreams, although in this case, someone who had spent the better part of their life watching nothing but anime – as amazing and disturbing as that may be.

Sadly, you can’t take pictures in the museum so what I got were some shots of the amazing Tongari-kun in the foyer. Wired did a nice spread that includes some of the more stunning sculptures at the exhibit – and the flower room that made me want to hurl.

The piece that really got me thinking was ko2 – a naked anime girl merged with a jet, in various stages of transformation. In one sense, it is the perfect combination of two of Japanese pop culture’s obsessions – mecha and fantasized sexuality. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see a figure like this for sale in an anime store – with no sense of irony or artistic commentary. Which leaves me wondering: just what is Murakami trying to say? Can you really react to a society by going only slightly beyond what that culture is already doing?

The funniest moment happened thanks to a pair of over-sexualized figures a few rooms on. Life size and facing each other, Hirpon and My Lonesome Cowboy cavort in naked wonder of their own sexual fluids that emerge from their bodies and into the gallery. Just behind me, in the previous room, I overheard a teacher leading a grade shool group say “ok everyone, stay in here, we are NOT going to the next room!”

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to have to explain this stuff to a 7 year old either.

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