My family always does an LA museum trip whenever I'm home. It's one of our main themes as a clan. And we camp. Usually, we go to these things expecting to be entertained and enlightened and leave feeling elated, successful and hungry. Yesterday, though we were getting hungry (no help from the Griddle House where we ate breakfast, the french toast was amazing and huge), we left the Murakami exhibit at the MOCA feeling dirty and cheated. Max (my big little brother) was into it, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that he is into anime, can speak Japanese and may be more familiar with manga (possibly). Anyway, unlike the rest of us, he saw value in Murakami's work and the commercialism that is his backbone. Sarah (little sister), saw more of what I saw, an artist with "no artistic heart." Basically, the exhibit consisted of flat, repetitive imagery which had virtually no deeper meaning. His large scale works were assembled by some unknown team of workers who had to cut and paste thousands of the same smiling flowers and simple vines. Another main figure he focused on was the mushroom. In his early college life this is supposedly all the could or would draw. This idea of the mushroom as a Japanese symbol could have been really cool, had he taken the extra time to meaningfully connect the mushrooms to the mushroom cloud (atomic bomb) that his mother experienced in Japan. But, for reasons far beyond me, he made no such correlation. After seeing photos of the guy and hearing him speak about his work it is truly laughable that he likened himself to a Japanese Andy Warhol. Where Warhol took commercialism and transcended it into fine art, Murakami simply exploits his simple pieces and characters for commercial purposes. The characters his wor revolves around consist of Dob (a version of Mickey Mouse), Kai Kai (a teletubby rip-off), and Ki Ki ( a semi-cute three-eyed poop-obsessed monster). The animation was impressive, but who knows how much of this he actually participated on or simply oversaw and directed. The real kicker was the full fledged Louis Vuitton store inside the museum exhibit. I think that thats what we all saw in the show, a perverted man sitting on an empire of crap. The image that I sadly cannot shake is this: a life-size sculpture of a naked anime male holding his rock hard wang as the jizz is forming almost a crown around his head. Truly disturbing. I think Murakami tried to justify this sculpture as a call-out to the absurdity of sexuality in anime and manga, but really it just showed me his interest and appreciation for gratuitous graphic content.
Thankfully, Sarah spotted a banner for the Dali exhibit at the LACMA and that show made our trek worthwhile. That man's body of work is extensive and astonishing. Not only is his technique amazing (his patience for oils was noteworthy), but his content and understanding of light and perception were really quite a feat. Film was also a big part of the show. My only regret about attending was that I became too overwhelmed with the swarms of people at the museum that I couldn't have my own time with any of the works. However, it was pretty amazing to see his strokes and to appreciate an artist who had a heart. It also made me feel justified in my review of Murakami's work and it was interesting to compare two artists, both who had commercial work, and see that just because they each have their work on display, I can discern from a real artist with heart and a mushroom-obsessed fraud.