“Juxtapoz x Superflat” at Vancouver Art Gallery presents artists working between commercial realms and the street.
The exhibition “Juxtapoz x Superflat” – curated by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, Juxtapoz magazine and Toilet Paper – is at Vancouver Art Gallery until 5 February 2017. Art Radar takes a look at the exhibition and four of the exhibited artists who work in the Asia-Pacific region.
Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s artistic practice is expansive – spilling into fashion, film and other commercial areas. The artist turned to curating in the early 2000s, producing several projects, including “Superflat” (an exhibition that toured Nagoya Parco Gallery, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Walker Art Center and Henry Art Gallery in 2000), “Coloriage”, which opened at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2002 and “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture” in 2006 at Japan Society. The term “Superflat” is a word that Murakami uses to refer to any project or artwork in which art, subcultures, critique and popular culture are intertwined in unexpected ways.
“Juxtapoz x Superflat” and the Kaikai Kiki Ltd. artists
Conceived by Murakami and co-curated with Evan Pricco, Editor-in-Chief of Juxtapoz Art & Culture, the exhibition is proposed as a survey of Superflat visual art made by artists who operate outside of the central hubs of the global art world and intellectual elite. The exhibition originally existed in Seattle during the Seattle Art Fair as a short-term pop-up event hosted by the Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and his private company Vulcan. This pop-up exhibition opened on 5 August 2016, later travelling to the Vancouver Art Gallery.
The objective of the “Juxtazpoz x Superflat” project was to expand and explore Murakami and Juxtapoz magazine’s interest in “flattening high and low cultures”. As such, the exhibition includes work by artists whose practices have been shaped by a variety of sub- and popular cultures including skate, surf, graffiti, street art, comics, design, illustration, manga, painting, and digital and traditional arts. As the press release states,
Juxtapoz x Superflat is a manifesto for new creative practices that can no longer be adequately described by the traditional categories of art and production.
The notion of “superflat” is also embodied in the work of the collective studio Kaikai Kiki Ltd. – a company and gallery space that represents a group of Japanese artists including Murakami. While Kaikai Kiki Ltd. are producing the exhibition (and a few of their artists are exhibiting, such as Chiho Aoshima and Kazumi Nakamura) the selection of works to be included in the exhibition was made by a curatorial team consisting of Juxtapoz magazine, Takashi Murakami and Toilet Paper Magazine.
Artists selected to appear in the show by Murakami include Chiho Aoshima, Urs Fischer, Kim Jung Gi, Kazunori Hamana, James Jean, Friedrich Kunath, Takashi Murakami, Kazumi Nakamura, Otani Workshop, Mark Ryden, David Shrigley, Katsuya Terada. Toilet Paper Magazine‘s selection comprises Yuji Ueda, Yuji Ueno, He Xiangyu and Zoer & Velvet, while artists selected by Juxtapoz are Trenton Doyle Hancock, Todd James, Austin Lee, Rebecca Morgan, Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Paco Pomet, Parra, Swoon, Christian Rex van Minnen, Erin M. Riley, Devin Troy Strother, Sage Vaughn and Ben Venom.
Art Radar highlights four of the exhibiting artists working in the Asia-Pacific context.
1. Chiho Aoshima
Chiho Aoshima graduated in Economics and has no formal art background. Despite this she began working with a range of creatives including Murakami (for whom she was an assistant) and various commercial clients and has developed a diverse portfolio of sculpture, painting, printmaking and animation. In 2004 the self-taught artist was invited to participate in the 54th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, where she unveiled her largest wallpaper piece to date, measuring 106 feet (32.5 m) in length by 15 feet (4.8 m) in height. In May 2005, as part of the “Little Boy” project, her ecologically-themed “City Glow” and “Paradise” series covered ad spaces throughout the Union Square subway station in New York, greeting commuters as they passed.
2. Otani Workshop
Otani Workshop is a ceramics artist based in Shigaraki – one of the great centres of Japanese ceramics for the last 800 years. In addition to clay, Otani works with wood, iron and other materials. His small jars, vases, and other sculptural forms depicting figures and faces are characteristic of the many styles and motifs found throughout Japanese culture. His unique pottery methods merge a respect for lineage with improvisation, experimentation and refinement. His work is informed by lifestyle, the love of nature, working in remote surroundings and sometimes farming his own land. Young Otani is an accomplished craftsman who has been forming, firing and exhibiting his earthenware in Japan for several years.
3. Kazumi Nakamura
Kazumi Nakamura debuted as a painter in the 1980s, attracting attention for his “Y” paintings, expressionist works which employed Y-shapes as their motif. Following this came the Diagonal Grid, C Opened, Ranging Difference – Broken Shelter, Broken Hermitage, Saisoro, Shokusocho (Phoenix) and other series. He has been tirelessly and dynamically exploring the meaning of pictorial space, producing more than 1300 paintings to date. In Japan he is recognised as one of the country’s most representative painters and has participated in many solo and group exhibitions, with several works in the collections of major Japanese museums.
4. He Xiangyu
Conceptual artist He Xiangyu is perhaps best known for his headline-grabbing work The Death of Marat (2011), which features a life-like resin sculpture of the corpse of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei placed in the window of a German gallery. The title nods to the famous Neoclassical painting of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat by Jacques-Louis David, thereby elevating Ai to the status of a tragic hero. To create Cola Project (2009), an apocalyptic landscape of coal-like dark matter, He took over an entire lumber mill and employed a team of migrant workers to boil and reduce 127 tons of Coca-Cola over the course of a year. The piece has been read as a comment on the insidious nature of globalised consumer culture. He is an admirer of Maurizio Cattelan, and he shares something of the Italian artist’s irreverence. “Nothing that isn’t allowed in China cannot not be done,” he has said.
“Juxtazpoz x Superflat” encompasses the notion of the “superflat” and the idea of producing and disseminating art objects that are simultaneously audacious and nonchalant, critical and benign and that reflect popular and subculture tastes and genres.
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- “Portals, Loopholes and Other Transgressions”: Singaporean artist Heman Chong at FOST Gallery – December 2016 – Heman Chong’s latest exhibition “Portals, Loopholes and Other Transgressions” investigates the functions of producing narratives in our everyday lives
- The rise of Hong Kong street art – signs of a new creative awakening? – August 2015 – Art Radar looks into why and how street art is surging in Hong Kong right now
- The Umbrella Archives: Hong Kong artist collective fights to preserve protest art – October 2014 – Wen Yau, leading member of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archives & Research Collective, talks about the collective’s preservation and archiving efforts
- Art from the streets of Asia: Art Radar’s 6 best articles – August 2014 – Art Radar looks through its archive to bring you six of its best posts on street art in and around Asia
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