Filed under Gal About Town

Japan Society

Review of Bye Bye Kitty!!!
Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art
By Patricia Karetzky

Makoto Aida, Harakiri School Girls (detail) 2002

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street New York, NY 10017 Phone: 212.832.1155

Curated by David Elliott, founding Director of the Mori Art Museum,
Friday, March 18 — Sunday, June 12

The recent work of sixteen Japanese artists, half of whom are female, is on view at the Japan Society until mid June. The title of the show indicates that these artists have moved beyond the cute phenomenon exemplified by the cartoon character Hello Kitty. Indeed, many viewers were startled to find so many prophetic images of doom and destruction. Range widely in medium and format, the works are marvelously skillful and detailed. Here are short descriptions of but a few of the artists’ work. Miwa Yanagi in My Grandmother Geisha, photographs her wizened Nanny in full Geisha costume and makeup; this is a chilling image of old age and decay juxtaposed with traditional ideals of beauty. Yamaguchi Akira paints an extraordinary aerial view of Narita International Airport with several jets circling, waiting to land, as if he were a 16th century Japanese artist using such techniques as the bird’s eye view, arbitrary clouds that obscure details, and the roofless technique that allows views of interiors of the airplanes and the airport terminal. Using bright colors and miniscule detail, Yamaguchi renders the multitudinous activities found at the airport.  Manabu Ikeda in Existence has drawn an incredibly old large tree that actually measures 67 inches tall. Seen among the gnarled bark of the trunk and leafy branches are tiny figures and flanking the iconic image are small-scale views of ancient decayed Buddhist cities of Sri Lanka and more, which are dwarfed by the size of the tree. Tomoko Shioyasu in breathing wall, blessing wall, creates a delicate and moving installation with her large-scale paper cuts: dramatically lit in the dark gallery, they are gently animated by the movements of passersby. Kohei Nawa, in PixCell Elk #24, is a taxidermy Elk, covered in crystal glass balls of various sizes. The image is unnerving as the balls, which give the impression of having been the agent of death, are still beautiful to behold. Motohiko Odani’s sculptures, SP Extra Malformed Noh Mask Series Half Skeleton’s Twins, eerily conjure up radiation poisoning, half of the classic Noh mask is covered by deformed growths.

Bye Bye Kitty!!! The sixteen featured artists are: Makoto Aida???; Manabu Ikeda???; Tomoko Kashiki????; Rinko Kawauchi????; Haruka Kojin????; Kumi Machida????; Yoshitomo Nara????; Kohei Nawa????; Motohiko Odani????; Hiraki Sawa?????; Chiharu Shiota????; Tomoko Shioyasu????; Hisashi Tenmyouya????; Yamaguchi Akira???; Miwa Yanagi?????; Tomoko Yoneda????.