FIRST LOOK | TAKASHI MURAKAMI’S ARHAT CYCLE PART II AT PALAZZO REALE, MILAN

August 5, 2014  |  art

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Opening last week at the historic Palazzo Reale in Milan was the second installment of the master of Japanese Pop, Takashi Murakami's latest series of works that first debuted at Blum & Poe in LA in April of 2013.  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.

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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