It seems their brains have melted. There are so many characters who like that in Takashi Murakami’s new exhibit, Takashi Murakami: Stepping On A Rainbow’s Tail, at the expansive museum in downtown Los Angeles. the faces reveal various states of alarm, brokenness, emptiness, despair, anxiety, bewilderment, and even a weary, resigned serenity.
take, for example, his new 2022 painting, People Unknown. The work, the artist says, during an interview in a garden outside the museum, “looks like a space family from the ’70s or maybe ’60s” and has an “American animation” vibe.
but the impetus behind it was spending time on social media during the pandemic and murakami’s shock at discovering the unexpected things he did to people.
As the artist’s wall sticker for the work explains, “Between normal times and times of emergency, people change drastically, and everyone started to look like an alien to me… on social media, for example.” , someone who used to seem like a kind-hearted naturalist guy unexpectedly started an aggressive protest against vaccines, denying their efficacy and claiming the government was lying. I felt afraid of people. I sensed that in times of emergency, everything about people could change, and I wanted to shape this feeling.”
the famous 60-year-old artist explains: “it was really influenced by covid. for the last two years, everyone was locked up at home. a lot of the things that they couldn’t express and that were really repressed inside started to explode ”.
“and that’s when I started to see different sides of people I didn’t know. it was almost similar to kafka’s metamorphosis,” continues the japan-based artist, known for his high and low approach to art, collaborations with brands like louis vuitton, and themes of pain and tragedy often disguised with poppy flowers and mushrooms ( a reference to the atomic bombings of Japan during World War II).
The expansive exhibition, the artist’s first solo show there, features 12 pieces from the museum’s collection, including the 24-meter-wide work of Murakami in the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow (which is created in response to the devastating 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami), as well as sculptures and wallpaper work. The exhibition also incorporates elements of augmented reality throughout the space with QR codes that allow visitors to bring Murakami elements, such as his happy flowers, to life via mobile phones. (ar features were created using instagram, design studio buck, meta’s spark ar, and broad). 25.
Murakami, who also has an exhibit at New York City’s Gagosian Gallery through June 25, spoke further with thr about the decision to add AR elements to the expansive exhibit, why he doesn’t want to return to his hectic pre-pandemic travel schedule and how your work is influenced by your child’s time playing video games for 20 hours straight.
why did you decide to add ar elements to this exhibit?
in the past, for museum exhibitions, I would do wallpaper or projections on the wall or add some component other than the actual presentation of the works and then for this exhibition, initially, I was thinking of projecting things on the wall outside, but the museum was very concerned that drivers would be distracted and cause traffic accidents.
then the [idea for] ar technology came up, and I took note of it. I’ve known [creative director] kristen [joy watts] from instagram for a long time, so I reached out to her to see if we could do something, and this worked out.
Are you back on a normal schedule when it comes to traveling?
Yeah, but I don’t want to go back to that schedule. the two years of the pandemic were stressful, about how to keep your distance. but the other thing is that I’m a geek, and sitting in my study and using a pencil or something like that is very comfortable. I really want to go back to my studio.
He has been heavily involved in the creation of nfts. Do you think they have a long-term future?
I’m more involved in the business structure [of nfts], not just the art. the concept is very important: decentralized authority and independent freedom for the creator. that’s what I’m trying to pursue. that’s what I think will have longevity.
What has influenced you lately in the world of entertainment?
a lot, but these two years, the influence came from the video game industry. i’m not playing but my son and daughter are playing, mostly fortnite and animal crossing. this is super mysterious to me. For example, my son played fortnite for over 20 hours one day: he looked crazy and his eyes looked like a junkie. and then he [said he] ‘I don’t want to go to school. I want to play whole days. finally my wife stopped this game. seems like a super strong addiction. I want to access this mindset.
can you talk about some of the influences on the older works on display, like your monumental painting, in the land of the dead, treading on the tail of a rainbow, which you contemplate through the legend of the immortals Daoists of Chinese mythology?
[Daoist immortals and] the 2011 Great Japan Earthquake and Tsunami were something I really wanted to explore, including the mechanism of how religion originates. that was something he was learning and interpreting. and I have always felt that cultures arise in one place, but then as they are transferred and taken to other regions and other cultures, they always get misunderstood, there are misunderstandings, and they keep changing. so this work is kind of an embodiment of that process because the original motif [of Daoist immortals] and the original paintings are from china, and soga shōhaku was a japanese painter who imported it and made it into his own work, but in that time it was already a kind of deconstructed in its own interpretation. and then again I’m taking that and reinterpreting it and changing it from the original. so what i did is a complete mess compared to the original, but i think this is really the essence of culture and cultural transmissions.