Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Don't Miss: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg: (Through Sept 24 at MCA)

As part of the last bits of summer before school started, I crossed off one of my summer bucket goals and went with my son to see the Takashi Murakami exhibit The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, which is at the MCA-Chicago through September 24.  It's an astonishing exhibit, full of exciting art, and I highly recommend you not miss it.

Murakami is a Japanese artist that was trained in traditional Japanese ink and art techniques (He has a PHD in Nihonga, Japanese traditional painting).  He then managed to pair those techniques with Manga and Pop Art and come up with a style of art uniquely his own.  This exhibit is the first major retrospective of his work, and showcases many early works as well as brand new works created especially for this exhibit.  Many of these have never been shown in America before.
These were two paintings on either side of the giant mural in the room.  I added them together.

Murakami works on a huge scale; Some of his paintings are mural sized and require a team of artists to create.  A couple of sculptures in the exhibit were 20+ feet tall, and one painting was 300 feet long!  They have a great video showing the process of making the art, along with the team doing the work while Murakami okays every part of the process.

Panoramic view of one of the larger paintings.  It doesn't really bulge like this.  The room is close to 100 yards long!

One of Murakami's consistent characters is a mouse, who has come to represent him.  Over the years
the mouse has mutated wildly into different characters and has different qualities.

His work has some consistent themes:  Mutation, cartoon characters, and Arhats, Japanese healing monks.  Over the years, he has created a number of paintings of Arhats, who look like they might be R.Crumb characters, but represent different historical characters from Japan.  The work is very detailed, and Murakami oversees every part of the process.

Some of the Arhats, or healing monks, in the giant painting 500 Arhats.

Collaboration with Kanye West 
Murakami's work is playful and evocative at the same time. He has weird titles, and descriptions of the paintings don't always match what's on the canvas. Although sometimes the artwork looks like graffiti, you can see underneath it all is a vast amount of technique. He has also collaborated with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Kanye West.

A large sculpture almost looks like a manga toy
At the gift shop,  a number of Murakami prints and other merchandise is for sale.  Murakami knows the power of branding and marketing.  Over half of the prints that were being sold were already sold out when we went (and some of them go for upwards of $5000!)  (There were plenty of t-shirts however, if you are interested!)

A cartoon octopus, manga style by Murakami
In addition to the Murakami exhibit, the museum has a number of other exhibits on.

It's their 50th anniversary, and they are getting ready for that. As part of that process, they are displaying some older exhibits.  One such was Art By Telephone, where they asked artists to telephone instructions to the curators to make art, and the curators followed their instructions, thereby making art.

They have some old-school telephones on the wall, and you can listen to the instructions. Pretty cool idea!

My son, listening to
some art instructions
from 1969
They have other older exhibits as well, including an infamous visit by performance artist Chris Burden, who lay motionless in the museum for over 48  hours.  They have some film of that, as well as newspaper articles about the furor that it caused.  Hard to imagine that a guy laying motionless would cause such a furor, but it did!

Find out more about Murakami on his instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/takashipom/
or on the museum's exhibit page:


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