Japan’s Polka-Dot Pioneer on a Life at the Mercy of Her Art
“She says that if she doesn’t paint she wouldn’t exist,” says Martín Rietti of his latest subject, 84-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. “Her work has an authenticity that I don’t often see in contemporary art.” The Argentinian director visited Kusama at her studio in Tokyo ahead of her latest show that opens at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, curated by Deputy Chief Curator of MALBA, Philip Larratt-Smith, and Francis Morris, who curated her retrospective at the Tate in 2012. This first major retrospective in Latin America opens tomorrow before traveling to four other cities in South and Central America over the next year and a half. It leads the viewer through over 100 works created between 1950 and the present day, spanning her early period in Japan, 15-year stint in New York where she befriended fellow artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Donald Judd and Joseph Cornell, and her return to Tokyo, where she has been living voluntarily in a psychiatric clinic since 1977. “Her work is not only a revelation of her inner psychic reality but also a sort of time capsule of the emancipatory and utopian moment of the late 1960s,” says Larratt-Smith. “She is a very seductive person, secretive and charming. When she speaks the obsessive cast of her mind becomes immediately clear: she talks in circles, often repeating the same thing many times. It is clear that she has deep psychic wounds, but also that her work sustains her and keeps her going.”
The Pop Artist Strikes a Different Tone in the Wake of the Fukushima Disaster
Japan’s explosive master of color Takashi Murakami contemplates the shifting purpose of his work in today’s short from Friend & Colleague. The Tokyo-born artist was interviewed while surrounded by new pieces at his Arhat exhibition at LA’s Blum & Poe gallery, shortly after the international premiere of fantastical epic Jellyfish Eyes, which took place at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in April. Murakami has earned major retrospectives at the Brooklyn Museum, MOCA in Los Angeles and the Château de Versailles, and last year had a solo show at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. His new feature film is a more sentimental and sincere undertaking than his previous work and follows a young boy in Japan mourning the death of his father and readjusting to life while striking up an unlikely companionship with a creature that resembles a flying jellyfish. The ironic undercurrents typical of the artist are noticeably absent, in light of the disasters that have rocked Japan in the last two years, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. “He is well known for his loud and sometimes shocking work,” says director Alexei Tylevich of Murakami’s apparent about-face. “It was really surprising to hear him talk about unexpected notions like ‘spirituality’ and ‘healing.’”
The Legendary Photographer Plunges Into the Dark Corners and Bright Lights of Hong Kong
Acclaimed Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s sensual approach to the urban landscape is revealed in this edifying short by the Hong Kong-based filmmaker Ringo Tang. Now in his 70s, Moriyama shot to fame when his grainy black-and-white images depicting a post-war Japan in flux won the country’s New Artist Award in 1967 and has since had major retrospectives at the New York Metropolitan Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1999), the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2008) and, currently, at Tate Modern in tandem with William Klein. His high-contrast, distorted imagery and raw-verging-on-sordid content has influenced the work of countless photographers. Tang’s relationship to the master of harsh street photography is especially poetic: “The Moriyama black has always fascinated me,” the director writes in homage. “A thick slash of heavy black, so overwhelming.” Filmed while Moriyama was in Hong Kong for his first ever solo exhibition there, the short splices examples of his oeuvre with footage of the artist himself, whose short sentences are layered over the industrial beat of the city. The result taps into Moriyama’s engaged, multi-sensory experience of the metropolis, which he investigates using not only sight, but also smell and sound. Observations such as “The past cannot be captured by the present, the present can only be captured in the moment” crystallize what Moriyama refers to as “the mighty power” of photography.