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Takashi Murakami’s (b. 1962) world of smiling flowers and mutating characters lies at the juncture between pop culture, history, and art. Originally trained in nihonga (traditional Japanese painting), Murakami looks with equal fascination to contemporary forms of Japanese culture—such as anime and manga—as well as Western art history, the global contemporary art market, religion, environmentalism, and sci-fi sources for inspiration. Through the dazzling colors and astounding detail of his signature “Superflat” style, he eradicates boundaries between “high” and “low” art. In both the subject matter and stylistic approach of Process Drawing for Super Nova (1999), he alludes to the widespread devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two Japanese cities that were largely leveled to the ground during World War II. By presenting a vast array of vibrantly colored mushrooms—which evoke the mushroom-cloud shape of a detonated atomic bomb—each covered with humanlike eyes, Murakami suggests an alternative future in which tools of warfare are made stylishly impotent and mushrooms have playfully assumed human physical characteristics due to radiation exposure in a postnuclear world.
Photo: Ricardo Miyada