Murakami @ MOCA

Ξ January 11th, 2008 | → 2 Comments | ∇ Beyond Northeast, The Arts |


Last night I was fortunate enough to be invited to a party held at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA for a private viewing of the Takashi Murakami exhibition. For those who are as far down on the artistic hipness totem pole as me, the Tokyo born artist has made a name for himself over the past two decades fusing Japanese popular culture and high art into a genre he calls “Superflat.” While trying to decipher what exactly is the definition of “Superflat” art, I gave up after the third mention of “post-modern.” Seeing as no one seems to be able to define what postmodernism encompasses, I find it a difficult term to use in describing an artistic style. The best summary I can give of his work is that it looks like the offspring of Roy Lichtenstein and Walt Disney, if that child was forced to watch Japanese pornography by his nanny, Tim Burton. Murakami describes his work as a “critique of westernization” and an expose of the “Japanese male sex complex.” I would agree with the latter and re-word the former to read: “celebration.” True, much of his work deals with the grotesque, but there still isn’t much of a sense of regret or perversion in the works. However, the effect on me was one of “peeking behind the curtain,” which may be the artist’s point. Certainly the most memorable works in the exhibit were three sculptures: Miss Ko2, My Lonesome Cowboy (MLC), and Hiropon. All three appear to be life sized avatars for manga porn stars. Miss Ko2, the tamest of the three, presents an impossibly long-legged waitress whose breasts are barely contained by her diner uniform. Hiropon and MLC, whose title alludes to the Andy Warhol film, are much more explicit. Hiropon presents a woman with impossibly large breasts and a tiny string bikini squirting milk in a ring around her body from both of her nipples while MLC depicts a man (who looks an awful lot like Guile from Streetfighter) ejaculating semen into a widening spiral above his head. Obviously this is much more than a celebration of the human body and probably isn’t suitable for the kids. (I can’t imagine trying to bring a school group through this exhibit.) Not all of the works so obviously reflect a society where used underpants are sold in vending machines. Much of Murakami’s work uses colorful, but sometimes terrifying, depictions of mushrooms. MOCA suggests that they are a reflection of Murakami’s ascent from the underground, yet it’s hard to view these without Hiroshima and Nagasaki coming to mind. One of the walls, covered with skulls transposed onto large disfigured mushrooms, makes this connection impossible to ignore. If nothing else, the Murakami exhibit is something different and when you go out for sushi in Little Tokyo afterward, you won’t be at a loss for things to talk about. …And no, this entire article is not just an attempt to pop up on more internet porn searches.

The Murakami exhibition runs through February 11th and is within walking distance of the Gold Line stop at Union Station.


Drama in Scenic Downtown Burbank

Ξ November 12th, 2007 | → Comments Off | ∇ Beyond Northeast |

‘Master Harold’…and the Boys

As much as I love the Northeast, it can’t be a completely self sustained universe. So, part of the enjoyment of living here is the access to nearby areas of interest. Burbank is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a cultural hotbed (though perhaps I should as it’s responsible for most of the major studio film and television programming pumped around the world). Still, I was fortunate enough to sit in on an excellent performance of Athol Fugard’s ‘Master Harold’…and the Boys at the Colony Theatre.

Fugard, was born to Dutch immigrants in South Africa in 1932. ‘Master Harold’…and the Boys is a Spartan study in the effects that apartheid era racism has on all living under it. Without getting to bogged down in plot specifics, the play occurs in one long act during a rainy afternoon in the St. George’s Park Tea Room. Hally, a white son of the tea room’s owners who Fugard based on himself, is barely passing his classes, dreading his alcoholic father’s return from the hospital, and seeking solace in his longtime friends and black employees, Sam and Willie. We meet no other characters throughout the play, though the father’s imminent return home and three phonecalls regarding this cast a spectre over Hally’s afternoon. Still, one white dilettante scholar and two subservient black men create enough tension to make audience member’s squirm in their seats and gasp at the climax.

Best about this performance is the superb acting by Michael Shepperd (as Sam) and Michael Tauzin (as Hally) who perform a South African accent so well that I forgot I was watching a play for much of the performance. (The Fourth Wall is sturdy and unbreakable!) All this and third row tickets were under $40. Check it out soon though as it’s run ends soon.


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