Takashi Murakami: In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
Now through Friday, January 17, 2015
Gagosian Gallery – 555 W. 24th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues)
Since the devastating Great Tōhoku Earthquake of 2011, Murakami has explored Japanese art produced in response to historic natural disasters. For example, in the aftermath of the Great Asei Edo Earthquake of 1855, painters such as Kano Kazunobu portrayed the five hundred arhats (or rakan), the spiritual protectors of the Buddha’s teachings, as stewards of enlightenment in dire times. While Kazunobu employed diverse Eastern and Western techniques in his vast scroll paintings, Murakami has created an immersive installation, entered through a 56-ton replica of a sanmon (sacred gate), of eclectic arhats; deliquescing clones of his fictional creature Mr. Dob; and karajishi, the mythic lions that guard Japanese Buddhist temples.
Here is a contemporary belief system, constructed in the wake of disaster, that merges earlier faiths, myths, and images into a syncretic spirituality of the artist’s imagination. In totemic sculptures representing demons, religious sites, and self-portraits; and paintings that conflate classical Japanese techniques with Abstract Expressionist tropes, science-fiction, manga, and Buddhist and Shinto imagery, Murakami investigates the role of faith amid the inexorable transience and trauma of existence.
To me, religions are a narrative…Natural catastrophes, earthquakes, are things caused by nature. Such chaos is natural, but we have to make sense of it somehow, and so we had to invent these stories. That is what I wanted to paint.