Chiho Aoshima, City Glow, 2005 (detail)

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May 4, 2005

As cherry blossoms dot the skies with their delicate pink petals, we marvel at another fascinating export from Japan — contemporary art. A Neo-Pop explosion of animated wonders sends Yoshitomo Nara, Hideaki Kawashima, and Takashi Murakami, along with his Kaikai Kiki crew, floating into New York City. Meanwhile, our inquisitive reviewers look to shows in London, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich, discovering a fresh assortment of artistic colors, shapes, and ideas that enliven the exchange of views between East and West.

  The 2005 A4 has been redesigned both inside and out. With an available 3.2 FSI® direct injection engine and S4 inspired suspension, the all-new A4 is the perfect blend of power and control. Visit to start collecting parts now.

Christina Mackie Snags Beck's Bounty
(BBC, April 26)
Multimedia sculptor Christina Mackie has won the prestigious Beck's Futures Prize for contemporary art, often considered the younger, hipper alternative to England's coveted Turner Prize. Mackie creates "emotional landscapes" through the use of objects and video projection. Famed photographer Wolfgang Tillmans was on the judging panel for the £26,666 award.

Paris Authorities Tackle Train Tagueurs
(IHT, April 15)
In an attempt to curb graffiti, Paris transportation authorities are offering taggers the chance to channel their creative energy into an art contest and exhibition. Graffiti art is estimated to cost authorities up to 20 million euros a year. In June, 60 tagueurs will go on trial in Versailles, accused of damages amounting to 1.5 million euros.

WTC Design Enduring Bureaucratic Backlog
(The Sunday Times, May 1)
Architect Daniel Libeskind's World Trade Center design, originally scheduled for completion in 2009, is again encountering delays. Now Police Department security concerns are requiring additional revisions. While officials continue to bicker about who's to blame and who will pay, Libeskind has re-created his tower in a Sacramento project. The 37-story "Aura" condo is strikingly similar to his design for the second-tallest building at Ground Zero. According to him, however, the issue is that both designs "respond to light."

Artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi Dies, 81
(The Guardian, April 23)
British artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, credited as one of the progenitors of Pop Art, has died. A collage-based sculptor and printmaker, Paolozzi grew up in Scotland, the child of Italian immigrants. A founding member of the seminal Independent Group of artists, Paolozzi was knighted in 1989.

Guggenheim's global gambles primed for big payoff more »

French billionaire's planned art museum outside Paris becomes doubtful more »

Beijing's Dashanzi district educating masses through international art fair more »

Saatchi's bloody head goes for 1.5 million in rumored YBA sell-off more »

Rem Koolhaas consults on Hermitage expansion more »

Lawsuit forces The Project to become Projectile and bring new partners onboard more »

Christie's wins rock, paper, scissors and a $20 million sale more »

Two years after US invasion, officials still tracking down missing Iraqi artifacts more »

Indian contemporary art attracts Bollywood bucks at auction more »

Artist's anti-Santa campaign gets axe from billboard bullies more »

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Shogo Endo / Noboru Tsubaki / Yuki Oshima / Yoshimoto Nara

Comic Anxiety

Balancing a tricky take on Japanese culture atop a double-edged sword, Japan's most popular Neo-Pop artist, Takashi Murakami, recently rolled back into his home-away-from-home, New York City, to stage the final chapter of his worldwide curatorial feat, Superflat. Creating a context for his art, as well as the output of his artistic pals and Kaikai Kiki crew, Murakami blames the malaise of his generation on the atomic bomb and the paternal role played by the US in postwar Japan. According to his theory, this cultural condition fueled the development of otaku, an infantile subculture that's obsessed with cartoon characters. In turn, otaku spawned the brand of art that's currently on view in Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture at Japan Society, where the show's title references the deadly bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Merging high art with pop culture, Murakami offers a conceptual umbrella that encompasses manga, anime, computer games, melodrama, apocalypse, shopping, and of course, cuteness. From monsters and mushroom clouds to Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon, fears and attractions are flattened to a state of comic book comprehension. He follows a factory form of production that kicks Warhol's notion of art as business up a notch while adding a dash of Keith Haring's Pop Shop appeal. His popular DOB character is a sly mix of Mickey Mouse and Doraemon, an animated cat, and his recent work, which he no longer paints himself, celebrates a commercial logo.

Fortunately, the talents of his assistants run deep and those who have been with him the longest have developed styles of their own. Aya Takano explores sci-fi supernaturalism in an expressionistic style. Mr. proudly sports a Lolita complex with wickedly amusing paintings, sculptures, and performances. Computer graphics whiz Chiho Aoshima creates apocalyptic visions strangely populated with female figures. Chinatsu Ban whimsically embraces elephants and underpants with equal enchantment. Yoshitomo Nara, an equal to master Murakami on the art world playing field, puts a bad boy hat on innocence with a cast of melancholy characters, while his protégé Hideaki Kawashima beguiles us with ghostly visions. (PL)

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Jim Lambie: Shoulder Pad
Sadie Coles HQ
Now through May 7

  Scottish artist Jim Lambie's installations and sculptures combine found furnishings with pop-cultural references, including record sleeves and thrift-shop fashions. Lambie, who also DJs, allows the viewer to recognize and connect with the objects, but not in the way they are presented. High-heeled shoes lie nonchalantly in the middle of the gallery, while a mirror, painted on one side with a beady eye, casts an unsettling look on what you're wearing. Split Endz turns two wardrobes into a multi-mouthed, pink, wooden monster with a mop of belts for hair and sneakers for feet, making a fun riposte on the all-consuming world of fashion. (SR)

Bernard Frize: Faces et Profils
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
Now through May 28

  Bernard Frize's exhibition at the sumptuous new Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in the heavyweight Marais district combines minimalist simplicity with dizzying intrigue. After more than 20 years devoted to painting, Frize approaches his work as deliberately as cooking a recipe. In this new series, based on mathematical designs created through knots and braids, he worked with assistants to synchronize the movement of four hands as they spontaneously weave through a ready-made pattern. The result provokes an active desire in the viewer to follow the choreography of the strokes, unlock the secrets of the design, and digest the brilliance of the colors. It's an enchanting game — quite like playing Twister on a rainbow with Confucius. (MS)

Jason Rhoades: My Madinah, Pupp Tent, Puss Tent
Galería Helga de Alvear
Now through May 5

  How many words are there in the English language for female genitalia? Would you believe 1,724? That's how many highbrow provocateur and installation engineer Jason Rhoades found, and that's how many individual neon signs spelling the words hang from the ceiling of the gallery's upper floor. True to form, he designed the work as a site-specific installation, working with the metal roof beams as a point of origin for his trademark aluminum armature. The suspended neon pieces hang in delicate organic clusters like grapes, from a lattice of red wooden wagon wheels. The warmth of the gently colored pastel light creates an unlikely intimacy, stretching Rhoades' boundaries as an artist in the process. (SND)

Sarah Lucas
Kunsthalle Zürich
Now through June 15

  This mid-career survey of works by YBA bad girl Sarah Lucas covers the past 15 years of her sometimes vulgar, sometimes subtle sculptures, photographs, collages, installations, and drawings. Situated within the former Löwenbräu brewery, the expansive exhibition features iconic works such as Bitch — Lucas' sculptural critique of Allen Jones' sadomasochistic Pop furniture — and her Self Portrait with Fried Eggs, a prime example of her frequent use of food as a creative material. In piece after piece, Lucas challenges and skews gender stereotypes, often using her own body as a canvas for her investigations into androgyny and the artifice of femininity. (AK)

Yang Fudong: Don't worry, it will be better...
Kunsthalle Wien
Now through June 19

  At the modest age of 34, Yang Fudong has taken the international art world by storm. With his already iconic photographic series, The First Intellectual (2000), which depicts a bleeding corporate worker clutching his valise in one hand and a brick in the other, Yang expresses the disorienting malaise of big-city living. The most ambitious Chinese artist of his generation, he's currently at work on the third part of Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, a five-part film of epic scope that tackles contemporary anxieties while referencing early 20th-century Chinese cinema. Look out Matthew Barney — the intellectuals are here. (CYL)

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Hideaki Kawashima

Hideaki Kawashima

Hideaki Kawashima's paintings are filled with luminous, full red lips and large, marble-like eyes. Following an ardent tradition of portraiture, he is interested in the features of people that are burned into our memories. Kawashima made his first splash with a slender version of St. Sebastian punctured by three arrows, but since then his focus has turned to studies of feminine heads with piercing eyes. Crafted with pristine realism, these works have ventured into the gothic, the enchanted, and the carefree. Abstracted, simply but fetchingly, with contours of balloon-shaped heads and wisps of hair, the figures are delicate and dainty, but they have been dealt both Boschian blows and Brueghelian delights to arrest the roving eye.

Kawashima, who studied with Yoshimoto Nara and served a two-year stint as a Buddhist monk, is no stranger to the strange. Influenced by Mark Ryden and Pierre et Gilles, he and his otherworldly figures plot out an ethereal vision that is gaining popularity throughout Asia, Europe, and now in the States — seducing with eyes, lips, and all. (ML)

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Takashi Murakami, Chinatsu Ban, Aya Takano, Mr.

Takashi Murakami

Andrew Maerkle interviews Takashi Murakami, artist and curator of Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture, about the exhibition.
AK: Little Boy concludes your Superflat trilogy of exhibitions first begun in 2000. Have your views on this style changed over the past few years?

TM: I've come to appreciate the words of Donald Judd, who once asserted that he himself was not a minimalist. Obviously, when he began, it presented a neat commercial package. It's a good way to draw attention in the art world, but most artists don't aspire to be boxed into a category. I realized that in order for my kind of art to be viable in the US it was expedient to categorize it, but part of me longs to move beyond that.

AK: So Superflat is just one expression of your ideas?

TM: It's true I dreamed up the concept of Superflat, but to the extent that I'm no longer confined by that style, it's not an aggressive move away.

AK: Lately, you've been emphasizing the work of the younger artists at Kaikai Kiki. Do you view yourself as a teacher, and if so, what is the attraction of such a role for you?

TM: I actually don't aspire to be a teacher. In some ways, I rebut the very romanticized role the recent New York Times article played out for me. I run a management company. I take a percentage of the artists' earnings, and it's not like I teach them, I'm more interested in that business model.

AK: Do you help your artists to grow?

TM: It's not just a cold financial arrangement. If anything, the word "coach" applies to me. I try to help artists navigate towards their most authentic selves. To the extent they've been transformed through meeting me, it may appear that I tried to control that process, but my sense is that I'm helping them reach their own authentic vision.

AK: What comes next, after Superflat?

TM: Actually, I'm interested in emerging artists from Taiwan and Hong Kong. It's not like there's anything original about them, but somehow, cumulatively, their art is powerful, and I'm interested in how they mash-up sources from other countries. Only time can prove what will be a masterpiece, so I'm really just interested in things that have energy and charge right now.

A groundbreaking artist, curator, and founder of the Kaikai Kiki group, Takashi Murakami is renowned for his Superflat Monogram in collaboration with Louis Vuitton. Consistently stretching the boundaries between high and low art, his work is coveted by art collectors, exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, and available as fashion and collectible toys.

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Lullaby Supermarket
by Yoshitomo Nara
Verlag Fur Moderne Kunst Nurnberg

Though this monograph may look like a children's book, inside something darker and more menacing is at play. A stylish overview of Yoshitomo Nara's drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture, Lullaby Supermarket charts his course from '80s expressionism to the mid-'90s development of the snub-nosed, wide-eyed kids, cats, dogs, and bunnies that continue to populate his oeuvre. Inspired by punk music and pop culture, Nara constructs a world of sweet young things who have fallen from grace. Defiant, troubled, and lonely, his anti-cute characters are the visual poetry of a contemporary nomad whose art has achieved worldwide popularity. (PL)

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Cover image
Chiho Aoshima, City Glow, 2005
© 2005 Chiho Aoshima/Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd.
All Rights Reserved
Courtesy Public Art Fund and Japan Society

Paul Laster
Shana Nys Dambrot
Andrew Maerkle
Mark Mangan
Shiraz Randeria

Christopher Elam
Mark Barry

Lisa Cooley
Nikki Columbus
Tim Evans
Jocelyn K. Glei
Leigh Goldstein
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Melissa Lo
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Marlyne Sahakian
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Mailer Design
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