Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Murakami's Little Boy Exhibition Opens April 8th at New York's Japan Society

Japan Society Gallery, Spring 2005
Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture

Curated by Takashi Murakami
April 8 - July 24, 2005

Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture explores the culture of postwar Japan through its arts and popular visual media, from the perspective of one of Japan's most celebrated artists. Focusing on the phenomenally influential subcultures of otaku (roughly translated as "pop cult fanaticism") and its relationships to Japan's artistic vanguard, Takashi Murakami explores the historical influences that shape Japanese contemporary art and its distinct graphic idioms. The exhibition's title, Little Boy, refers to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, clearly locating the birth of these new cultural forms in the trauma and generational aftershock. In Murakami's perspective, a resonant figure for Japan's contemporary condition is that of the "little boy"--both the nickname for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and an image of Japan's infantalized culture.

Little Boy concludes Murakami's "Superflat" trilogy, a project conceived in 2000 to introduce a new wave of Japanese artists and to place their work in the historical context of traditional Japanese styles and concepts. The exhibition will showcase the work of key otaku artists and designers, many of whom are cult celebrities in Japan, and introduces their film and video animations, video games and internet sites, music, toys, and fashion to American audiences.

Work by Anno Hideaki, Aoshima Chiho, Ban Chinatsu, Fujiko F. Fujio, Kawashima Hideaki, Kato Izumi, Komatsuzaki Shigeru, Mahomi Kunikata, Matsumoto Reiji, Miura Jun, "Mr.," Narita Toru, Okamoto Taro, Oshima Yuki, Otomo Katsuhiro, Otomo Shoji, Takano Aya, Tsubaki Noboru, Yanobe Kenji, Yoshitomo Nara, and Murakami will be exhibited. Public art works by Ban, Aoshima and Murakami will be installed at sites throughout New York City.

A fully illustrated, bilingual catalogue, co-published with Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition, with essays by Murakami, Midori Matsui, Morikawa Kaichiro, Okada Toshio, Sawagari Noi, Katy Siegel and project directors Tom Eccles, Director of the Public Art Fund and Alexandra Munroe, Director of the Gallery and Vice President of Arts & Culture at Japan Society.
Gallery hours
Tuesday through Thursday, 11 am - 6 pm
Friday, 11 am - 9 pm
Saturday & Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm

Moby's Music for Our New Flat Earth

by Gregg Chadwick

Thomas L. Friedman's new book, "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century'', argues that the fall of the Berlin Wall was the first in a series of important events that have ushered in the 21st Century. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing dissolution of the Soviet hold on Eastern Europe allowed us to see the world, maybe for the first time, as one whole fabric.

April 1, 2005
photo by Gregg Chadwick

"It was a result of events and forces that all came together during the 1990's and converged right around the year 2000 ...The first event was 11/9. That's right -- not 9/11, but 11/9. Nov. 9, 1989, is the day the Berlin Wall came down, which was critically important because it allowed us to think of the world as a single space.’ The Berlin Wall was not only a symbol of keeping people inside Germany; it was a way of preventing a kind of global view of our future,' the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen said. And the wall went down just as the windows went up -- the breakthrough Microsoft Windows 3.0 operating system, which helped to flatten the playing field even more by creating a global computer interface, shipped six months after the wall fell. 
The second key date was 8/9. Aug. 9, 1995, is the day Netscape went public, which did two important things. First, it brought the Internet alive by giving us the browser to display images and data stored on Web sites. Second, the Netscape stock offering triggered the dot-com boom, which triggered the dot-com bubble, which triggered the massive overinvestment of billions of dollars in fiber-optic telecommunications cable. That overinvestment, by companies like Global Crossing, resulted in the willy-nilly creation of a global undersea-underground fiber network, which in turn drove down the cost of transmitting voices, data and images to practically zero, which in turn accidentally made Boston, Bangalore and Beijing next-door neighbors overnight. In sum, what the Netscape revolution did was bring people-to-people connectivity to a whole new level. Suddenly more people could connect with more other people from more different places in more different ways than ever before."
-Thomas L. Friedman, "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century''

It is the last sentence that I think will prove to be the most prescient for artists around the globe. More people are connecting with more people from more different places in more different artistic ways than ever before. In the past, new art was engendered as differing artistic cultures slid along each other like massive geological plates. In our age, music and art can be created in real time over a vast "flat" landscape. Global distinctions are breaking down. Artists are using the machines of business and industry to stay ahead of some sort of global homogenization. Instead artists like Moby are connecting and creating with a vast and potentially powerful community.

I thought of the collapse of the wall again when I read Kelefa Sanneh's failed attempt in the New York Times to use Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History" as a bludgeon to beat Moby's new album "Hotel" into the ground.

Moby's music is built using techniques that are global. Musicians can gather in their respective studios and plug in across the globe to create one new piece of music. The opportunities are open and endless and just being touched on.

Kelefa bemoans this influx of technology into the art world :"Mr. Fukuyama, in his famous obituary, might have written (but didn't quite, of course) that "boredom at the end of music will serve to get music started once again." That's an appealing idea, but it's also appealing to know, listening to "Hotel," that it won't be necessary. The end of music seems to have ended itself."

Of course this is a willful misreading of both Fukuyama and Moby. "The End of History" is not an obituary but instead a birth announcement - a philosophical examination of political good news:

"Liberal democracy remains the only coherent political aspiration that spans different regions and cultures around the globe. In addition, liberal principles in economics – the “free market” – have spread, and have succeeded in producing unprecedented levels of material prosperity, both in industrially developed countries and in countries that had been, at the close of World War II, part of the impoverished Third World. A liberal revolution in economic thinking has sometimes preceded, sometimes followed, the move toward political freedom around the globe."
-Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History"

Moby in a recent interview with Jaan Uhelszki in SOMA magazine describes walking down a hotel corridor past rows of closed and forbidding doorways but with the understanding that behind these doors people "are doing the most intimate things...bathing, sleeping, crying, having sex, laughing, starting relationships and ending relationships."

Friedman in "The World is Flat" describes the fall of the Berlin Wall as opening the closed doors of Eastern Europe and goes on to show how the world's new digital railway has opened the doors of India and China. Moby's global concerns and global audience indicate that he is in the forefront of a new worldwide artistic community. The beauty that Moby strives for and finds in his music speaks to the denizens of our new flat earth.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Venetians Added Ground Glass to Renaissance Paints

In the current issue of "Science News", Barbara Berrie and Louisa Matthew, from the conservation department at the National Gallery of Art, report on new discoveries in the paint formulation of sixteenth century Venetian paintings. It seems that ground glass was added to the powdered pigments upon grinding in linseed oil to increase transparency and to speed the drying time of the paint. Microscopic traces of glass were found in samples of Lorenzo Lotto's pigments viewed by Berrie "using scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive spectrometry, among other sophisticated analytical techniques"

"Upon closer examination, Berrie found high-quality silica in a form routinely used by Venetian glassmakers. During the Renaissance, they obtained it from quartzite pebbles along the Ticino River in northern Italy. They would then grind the quartzite into a fine powder."

Lorenzo Lotto
detail: Allegory of Virtue and Vice, 1505, National Gallery of Art

"For the Venetians to be able to use this ultrapure source of silica was a real technological innovation. Traditionally, glass was made from sand, which is loaded with impurities such as iron. The iron gives glass a green tint. Using pure silica, helped Venetian glassmakers to create their colorless cristallo. Perhaps Lotto was trying to achieve the same clarity in his paintings. He was layering these paints so thinly, he must have been taking advantage of glass' optical properties, says Berrie."

  • sciencenews

  • And I highly recommend the color histories found on:

  • webexhibits
  • "De Kooning: An American Master" by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan Wins Pulitzer Prize

    "De Kooning: An American Master" by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Biography today.

    Portrait of De Kooning

    photo by Harry Bowden
     Courtesy of the Charles Campbell Gallery, San Francisco

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    David Hockney - Hand, Eye, Heart, Space

    David Hockney's current exhibition of landscape watercolors at the LA Louver Gallery in Venice, California brings him back to the fields of East Yorkshire where as a teen on summer breaks from school he worked the fields he now paints. There is a youthful expansiveness in these new watercolors. Hockney's deep study of Picasso and Braque's cubistic space allows him to blow open these paintings in a way seldom seen in watercolor. The type of bent and overlapping space found in Hockney's earlier photo collages such as "Pearblossom Highway"(up the road at the Getty) is very much in evidence here.

    Moving from the foreground with its patterned arrangements of vegetation, to the lozenged fields in the middleground, to the horizon line in "East Yorkshire Spring" (above) which seems to bend with the curvature of the earth, leads us not to a single point, but to the vast interconnected nature of time and existence. We have seen these wide-open vistas so often in American films, especially Westerns, that it is easy to brand the vista as an exclusively American idea. In these works, Hockney seems to be discovering that these limitless horizons were already found in the landscape of his youth. And these limitless spaces are also found in the ideas of physicists such as Stephen Hawking. Hockney, throughout his career, has been as interested in how we see as in what we see. Light, color and questions on space and time have come to the forefront in both physics (light has become the cornerstone of reality and space and time have become observer-dependent) and the art of David Hockney.

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