Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Contra Murakami



A recent item in New York Magazine suggested that Takashi Murakami's art (currently in retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum) is so wild and crazy that it defies description. This didn't sit well with me, not only because it disparages the discipline of art criticism and the craft of its practitioners, but also because it smacks of cheap marketeering, hoping to elevate the Japanese artist to the undeserved status of demiurgic uberkunstler.

So I posted this on the New York Magazine site:

To call Murakami's work indescribable gives it too much credit and suggests he is an irresistible force of nature, one we cannot fully understand but to whom we must bow. It gives an added push to his relentless © juggernaut. It is a dangerous deification.

I don't exactly see Roberta Smith huffing and puffing to describe the work. It is well within her powers as a critic. Like Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker, she is not altogether sold on the show, but hits many of the same notes in her review: infantilization, jellyfish, nihonga, Hiropon, DOB, parents who drummed art into him, Warhol as market model, anime, manga etc. Both find the Vuitton boutique, with its white-enamel cases and recessed lighting, a visual high point.

Schjeldahl goes on:
"He offers us relief from the worry, if also the odd reward, of thinking and feeling as individuals -- a blissful submersion in mechanical affect, the same for everybody...
Murakami seems temperamentally averse to a cardinal obligation of artists that Warhol, Koons, and Hirst accept: the duty to seduce. But to actively woo the eye and tantalize the mind implies the possible existence of resistant viewers. Murakami assumes — or posits, as a ruling fiction — that we are all already spiritual putty in his hands, whether we admit it or ... not. There is power in this... It invites vicarious identification with the artist’s project — an intellectual rooting interest..."

Murakami's cover-the-earth effort brooks no contradiction, assumes we are all fans, and in fact infantilizes us. His self image is artist as zaibatsu.


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