Murakami, Brooklyn Museum Lobby, Image from Flickr

This past Saturday, joined by a friend, I went to see the Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. After some minimal subway issues, I was ecstatic to exit from the 4 train and be in front of the museum, flanked by the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The Murakami works will be on view from April 5th-July 13th. Kanye West performed at the opening which took place this past Thursday, and Louis Vuitton has set up a temporary store. The salespeople are completely decked out in white, and I couldn’t help but blink at their matchy Vuitton patent-leather white loafers.

We entered the exhibition on the fifth floor after snaking through the main museum space. Color, of course is the first word that pops into my mind. Murakami and his pop and Manga inspired works, jump off the wall in a fury of color and strange little characters. The last comprehensive show that I saw featuring the Japanese artist was at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino, Italy, 2005. At the time, I remember being bored by most of the work except for “Inochi” a character-part boy, part cyborg, part alien-inspired creature that Murakami refers to as his “Avatar”. Fortunately, some of the videos featuring Inochi, are in a small back room on the 5th floor. I loved having the opportunity to revisit the pieces three years later. They are still smile worthy, but considering the project hasn’t been continued, they felt a bit passe’ at this point. My favorites of the current show are large paintings featuring a character named Tan Tan Bo. Tan Tan Bo, is a large monster, with big teeth based on a a creature from Murakami’s childhood storybooks. The paintings are very involved, and have a sense of depth and landscape even if painted in the graphic style he is known for.

Upon approaching the painting and discovering the title,”Tan Tan Bo, Puking”, 2001 I laughed out loud (literally!). Poor Tan Tan Bo, is vomiting. He’s upset, depressed, demolished, hopeless, and based on the inclusion of an erect penis, I would assume sexually frustrated. Both my friend and I agreed that Tan Tan probably is the frustrated artist whose art is cute yet always stands on a dark dark ledge disguised by candy colored sweetness. Although with Kanye West and Louis Vuitton helping to entertain those who fill your wallet, how depressed can one be?

I highly recommend going to see this exhibition, and also the first floor “partner” (in my opinion) exhibition; Utagawa: Masters of the Japanese Print, 1770–1900. This show presents more than seventy prints from the renowned Van Vleck collection of Japanese woodblock prints at the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin–Madison and approximately twenty prints from the Brooklyn Museum. In strong contrast to the Murakami works, the prints from the Utagawa group, require up close and personal attention. One must lean into the paper to look at the small details, people, and color washes precisely placed in combined wood block and brush technique.

My overall response to both shows brought me to think about the state of art today and the attention spans of both artist and viewer. Going forward commercialism and art continue to merge, with the speed of the economy and societal desires to spend money. Both exhibits bring this to the surface and I feel that while we all ride the same wave, its important to step back, let the surfboard drop and fight the current, even if for just a short while.