TAKASHI MURAKAMI’S INCREDIBLE NEW “ARHAT” SHOW AT BLUM AND POE LOS ANGELES

April 11, 2013  |  art

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Opening tonight at the esteemed Blum & Poe Gallery in LA is an amazing show of breathtaking new artwork—including monumental-scale paintings and sculptures—by Japanese Pop master Takashi Murakami. Titled "Ahrat," the cycle of paintings on view continues Murakami’s newest mode of painting, developed for his exhibition "Ego," mounted in Doha, Qatar in early 2012. The Arhat paintings conflate historical, contemporary, and futuristic Japanese references with a myriad of styles, methodologies, and forms into single picture planes. The artist’s long-standing interest in Japanese nihonga painting and the contemporary practices of manga and animation are highlighted in this important body of work.

Arhat, which derives its name from the ancient language of Sanskrit, translates to “a being who has achieved a state of enlightenment.” The largest gallery contains three imposingly scaled paintings measuring between eighteen and thirty-five feet in length, whose source imagery is drawn from an ancient tale of Buddhist monks confronting decay and death. Demonic monsters and decrepit monks in traditional robes and paraphernalia wander psychedelic landscapes. Standing tall and center amongst these large paintings is a monumental new golden sculpture depicting a massive skull enveloped in flames, whose antecedents can be found in Buddhist statuary located in temples throughout Japan.

The gallery’s second consists of a new suite of six-by-five foot paintings, combining the artist’s optimistic and bright, smiling flower faces with his dark and brooding skull imagery. These paintings intermingle the handmade, silkscreened, and gestural techniques that have become a trademark of the artist. This gallery also features Murakami’s first wall-mounted sculpture, portraying a silver constellation of cascading skulls overlapping and melding together in a highly crafted manner.

The third gallery includes a series of painted self-portraits featuring Murakami and his beloved dog Pom. In the center of the gallery sits a third new sculpture made of highly polished stainless steel; a self-portrait of the artist with his dog, sleeping flat on their backs. This body of work furthers Murakami’s investigation into his own image, most notably seen in the recent sculptures, "Oval Buddha" (2008), several versions of "Pom & Me" (2009), and "Welcome to Murakami Ego" (2012).

Taken as a whole, Arhat articulates more than twenty years of Murakami’s mastery of melding form, content, history, and methodology into a succinct body of work. Murakami distills his signature “Superflat” style into a reflection on high, middle, and lowbrow culture.

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