Murakami Exhibit at Gagosian Mixes Old and New, Society and Spirituality

In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Takashi Murakami’s exhibition of new paintings and sculptures, ends its run at the Gagosian Gallery today. The large-scale works explore the Japanese artist’s function within the contemporary art scene as he portrays Japanese religion and spirituality, the darkness of society, and artistic responses to natural disasters.

Prompted by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown that devastated the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011, Murakami studied the work of Kano Kazunobu, whose 100 scrolls of Buddhist disciples featured frightening images of hell and suffering following the Great Asei Edo Earthquake of 1855, which killed more than 4,300 people.

Using faith and trauma as the meat and potatoes of Murakami’s message, the artist places the disciples, known as arhats, in contemporary settings that are chaotic and decadant. The Gagosian exhibition contains Buddhist and Shinto iconography, from the giant Bakuramon (sacred gate), to the larger-than-life demons, to the karajishi, the mythological lions that guard Buddhist temples.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Bakuramon (Sacred Gate)

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Demons

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Karajishi, mythic lions that guard Japanese Buddhist temples

 

Murakami’s paintings are bright and colorful, belying his darker themes. The cute karajishi frolic on mounds of skulls.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

 

Isle of the Dead mixes religious imagery with disturbing manga-style characters.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Isle of the Dead

 

Happy flowers mingle in front of skulls.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Detail of flowers

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Detail of flowers

 

The devil is in the details: Murakami hides himself in a couple of paintings.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

 

And this sculpture is a self-portrait of the artist.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Invoking the Vitality of a Universe Beyond Imagination

 

Daruma is coated in gold leaf and took eight years to produce.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Daruma

 

Recurring character Mr. DOB makes an appearance.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Tan Tan Bo – In Communication

 

Fluctuations in Space-Time is an example of the modern technology Murakami uses in his works.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Fluctuations in Space-Time

 

This detail of The Golden Age: Korin – Kansei harkens back to classical Japanese techniques with lacquer and gold leaf.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Detail of The Golden Age Korin Kansei

 

Murakami used a record number of staff for this exhibition at the Gagosian, employing up to 150 people who worked around the clock in shifts. The result is an impeccable look at society and spirituality in a modern setting that mixes old with new.

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow

Takashi Murakami, Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, art, NYC, Japanese artists, contemporary art, Mr. DOB, exhibition, sculpture, paintings

Detail of In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow