Friday, November 12, 2010

Beyond The Cult Of Kawaii: Breaking The Otaku Effigy

Kitty-chan looms on Park Avenue... in protest? Photo via

Awareness of Japanese art is diametrically opposed. People tend to either appreciate reverent mediums like ukiyo-e paintings, uki-e, kano, kyoto, nanga, rinpa, tosa, etc., or relish the populist mass media production of anime and manga art. With this edification, what emerges is a culture that is either an idiom of traditionalism or predominantly an expression of a pubescent child that fetishizes the most mundane event as an oblique sexual manifestation masked by cute innocence.

Japan Society has covered the range, with the former represented by the current Hakuin exhibit and recent shows focusing on the art of Kuniyoshi and Zeshin. The latter phenomenon was sumptuously articulated in Japan Society's 2005 exhibition Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture  curated by Takashi Murakami.

Well, Japan Society is about to inject a new piece to the proverbial puzzle of Japanese art.

Opening spring 2012, Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art is a deliciously titled exhibit that goes far beyond stereotypes of the latest Japanese art and ideas. Curated by David Elliott, founding Director of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum and hot off the 17th Biennale of Sydney, the show features 16 emerging and mid-career artists whose paintings, objects, photographs, videos, and installations meld traditional styles with challenging visions of Japan’s troubled present and uncertain future.

Japan Society Gallery Director Joe Earle notes the exhibit "celebrates the 'beyond cute' generation, introducing a group of younger artists whose work marks a clean break from the kawaii orthodoxy of the last decade. The show will offer a feast for the senses, demolishing preconceptions about contemporary Japan."

Why are we talking about this now, when there is plenty of time to catch the current exhibits The Sound of One Hand and oxherding? Joe Earle gives a sneak peek of Bye Bye Kitty!!! on November 16 at FIT’s Katie Murphy Amphitheatre. The lecture is part of an amazing range of programming concerning contemporary Japanese culture in conjunction with FIT’s exhibition Japan Fashion Now. Admission is FREE, though a reservation is required. Hope you can stop by and hope you are ready to get beyond cute!


No comments: