As much as everyone is already whining about the impending hellish winter that we are surely in for again this year, all you have to do is walk into the cavernous Gagosian Gallery space on West 24th Street and get an eyeful of the 18 foot high sculptures reaching towards the celing and 30 foot long murals unfurling across the walls in Takashi Murakami’s In The Land of The Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow to realize that — Polar Vortex be damned — New York City is the Center of The Universe, and that is where you want to be.
I’m not going to go into detail here about who Takashi Murakami is and why his art is important. You either already love his work, or will be compelled to find out based on the photos in this blog post. Or you don’t give a shit, who cares? Use The Google to your advantage, is all I’m saying.
The art exhibited in Murakami’s In The Land of The Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow is about the artist telling his personal story in response to historic natural disasters; specifically the Great Tōhoku Earthquake of 2011. Since that devastating event, Murakami has explored other Japanese art produced in response to historic natural disasters.
At Gagosian, Murakami has created an immersive installation, entered through a 56-ton replica of a Sanmon (Sacred Gate), which also includes paintings of eclectic Arhats (Perfected Persons); dissolving clones of his popular creation 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 an amalgamated 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.
That’s right: it’s heavy.
Also, there are lots of skulls.
Not long after we entered the gallery, an elderly gentleman approached me and asked what I thought of the art. When I told him I thought it was just fantastic, he went off on an elaborate rant about how he didn’t like it at all because Murakami puts too much stuff on the canvas. Then he went on about that for a while, citing artists like M. C. Escher, who expressed sophisticated visual concepts without putting “too much stuff” on the canvas, whatever.
When he finally came up for air, I offered my opinion that perhaps Murakami’s fans appreciate the high level of detail in the paintings. That couldn’t be possible, he insisted, because there was just too much stuff going on, “too many ideas.” I’m certainly all about having a lively conversation with someone over differing opinions concerning contemporary art, but if you start telling me that what I think is wrong, well, that’s where I am going to shut you down.
Eventually, Geoffrey appeared and, after I caught his eye and mouthed the words “help me” in his general direction, I was rescued. At that moment, I admit I was thinking about that episode of Seinfeld, where Elaine and Jerry, upon arriving at a party, agree on a hand gesture that they will use to signal each other from across the room if they are being monopolized in conversation by someone who’s driving them insane. Because life imitates art.
Too much stuff on the canvas. What a bunch of bullshit. If he didn’t like the art, why was he there? I got yer Too Much Stuff on the Canvas right here.
See how Murakami puts himself in the art. So cute.
And also, this little guy.
Of course, Murakami was in the house, because he is awesome like that. Here he is standing in front of a mural depicting those Arhats I mentioned earlier. He took the time to pose for photos with everyone, what a guy!
He is always smiling and has the best hats!
Here’s some more stuff we liked!
Here you see Murakami do something a bit different with his signature smiling face flowers. The black and platinum fields on each canvas are embossed with the imprint of hundreds of skulls.
Must See Art: Go Now!
In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow by Takashi Murakami will be on Exhibit Through January 17th, 2015 at Gagosian Gallery, Located at 555 West 24th Street, In the Chelsea Gallery District.