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Takashi Murakami (b. 1962)
Takashi Murakami (b. 1962)

DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB)

Details
Takashi Murakami (b. 1962)
DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Takashi Murakami '99' (on the underside of DOB)
fiber-reinforced plastic, resin, fiberglass, acrylic and iron
60 x 152 x 137 in. (152.4 x 386 x 347.9 cm.)
Executed in 1999. This work is from an edition of three plus two artist's proofs. (14)
Provenance
Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1999
Literature
B. Gopnik, "Twisted 'Toys': Takashi Murakami's Pop Art," Washington Post, 15 July 2001 (another example illustrated in color).
K. Logan, The Logan Collection: A Portrait of Our Times, A Collector's Odyssey and Philosophy, Vail, 2002, pp. 164, 172-173, 176 and 178, no. 12 (another example illustrated in color).
J. G. Castro, "Chicago: 'My Reality--Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation,'" Sculpture, vol. 22, no. 4, May 2003, p. 77 (illustrated in color).
Supernova: Art of the 1990s from the Logan Collection, exh. cat., San Francisco, 2003, p. 87 (another example illustrated in color).
M. Coetzee, Rubell Family Collection: Not Afraid, London and New York, 2004, pp. 82-83 and 237 (another example illustrated in color).
A. Lubow,"The Murakami Method," New York Times Magazine, 3 April 2005, p. 55 (another example illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Tokyo, Parco Gallery, DOB's Adventures in Wonderland, May 1999 (another example exhibited).
Annandale-on-Hudson, Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, June-September 1999, pp. 83-84, no. 44 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Darker Side of Playland: Childhood Imagery from the Logan Collection, September 2000-January 2001, no. 12, pl. 26 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Des Moines Art Center; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Center; Tampa Museum of Art; Chicago Cultural Center; Akron Art Museum; Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art; Tacoma, Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art and Huntsville Museum of Art, My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation, February 2001-January 2004, pp. 38-39 and 71 (illustrated in color, another example illustrated in color on the cover).
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Takashi Murakami: Made in Japan, April-September 2001, n.p. (another example exhibited).
Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Takashi Murakami: Summon Monsters? Open the Door? Heal? Die?, August-November 2001, pp. 40, 98-99 and 152, no. 58, fig. i (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Paris, Fondation Cartier and London, Serpentine Gallery, Takashi Murakami, June 2002-January 2003, pp. 24-25 and 109 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Torino, T1 Torino Triennale Tremusei, The Pantagruel Syndrome, November 2005-March 2006, fig. 9 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Ecstasy: In and About Altered States, October 2005-February 2006, pp. 100-101 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Denver, Museum of Contemporary Art, RADAR: Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan, October 2006-July 2007, 4-5, 134- 135 and 193, pl. 38 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary; Brooklyn Museum; Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst and Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, (C) Murakami, October 2007-May 2009, pp. 32 and 302 (illustrated in color).
Kiev, PinchukArtCentre, Takashi Murakami, October 2010-January 2011 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Like the central character in Takashi Murakami's colorful tableaux, DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB) presents the viewer with a complex concoction of entertainment-value, visual stimulation, and social commentary. DOB, one of Murakami's favorite and most enduring characters, stands forlornly surrounded by the watchful eyes of a menacing collection of multi-colored "magic" mushrooms. In a thinly veiled reference to the ubiquitous nature of contemporary drug culture, the clear hallucinogenic references are reinforced by psychedelic swirls of rich pigment that envelop every square inch of the surface of the mushrooms. DOB stands in the middle of this circle, right hand held aloft as though commanding an end to this multicolored nightmare. Yet the figure also conveys a sense of innocence, as if it had wandered into an enchanted forest filled with unknown creatures peering out from the undergrowth. Mixed into this audacious tableau are clear references to anime, which has engulfed modern Japan, and which builds on the country's preeminent graphic tradition.

Despite its human scale, DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB) has a toy-like quality that heightens its sense of kawaii, the cuteness that has become so cultish in contemporary Japan. And the epicenter of this cuteness is clearly DOB himself. This character, a veiled self-portrait of the artist, takes its name from an earlier Murakami work called Dobozite Dobozite Oshamanbe, 1993. As well as being a self-portrait, Murakami has explained that he intended DOB as a portrait of the Japanese people. In doing this, he is creating an art form that relates to the pervasive, if diffused, historical memory that underlays modern Japan's problematic colonial history and cultural development following in the cataclysmic wake of the Dutch traders, Admiral Perry and General MacArthur. The tri-dimensionality of kawaii, self-portraiture, and metaphor that DOB in the Strange Forest transmits, is essentially ironic, as Murakami's Superflat Manifesto, a proposal for an all-Japan aesthetic, makes clear: the title refers to a range of concepts, not least among them the traditional lack of illusionistic depth in Japanese art, the flatness of the digital screens of modern culture and design, and the flatness of Ground Zero following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nakasaki. Does the ghost of "Little Boy," the nickname for the bomb that fell on Hiroshima, echo through DOB himself? Certainly, the mutated mushrooms look immensely poisonous and conjure the clouds that rose over those cities as a result of their decimation.

As with so many of the constituent parts, characters, and themes of Murakami's art, the mushrooms allude to a broad range of references. They first appeared in his paintings, having been inspired by Ito Jakuchu's 18th-century Compendium of Insects and Vegetables, and they share a certain playfulness with the early 20th-century Taisho-era artist Takehisa Yumeiji's portraits of poisonous mushrooms. They also reference a range of associations: they recall various characters and elements from Japanese manga and anime, Western fairytales, and certain cautionary tales about poisoning; they suggest sensuality and even sexuality; they evoke mystery, emerging overnight; they can be considered culinary delicacies, yet they can also indicate rot; and while, they take root deep in the earth, they induce otherworldly, hallucinatory experiences--indeed, within DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB) they appear to be the product of them. The multifarious meanings, references, and implications make them a potent and deliberately problematic symbol within Murakami's imaginary realm, which he heightens with their garish colors and all-seeing eyes. People sometimes say that a portrait's eyes follow the viewer around the room; in DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB), Murakami deliberately escalates that perception.

Murakami derived his concept of the "Superflat" from both the modern and historic worlds, from today's and yesterday's culture in Japan. He searches for an authentic artistic voice for the new Japan, propelled by his own training in the Nihon-ga painting tradition. Intriguingly, the development of the art of Nihon-ga was itself a response to Western cultural diffusion, a form of ultra-conservative art that had been consolidated as a reaction to the increasing influences from abroad that were already flooding the country. In the wake of the Second World War, the relentless momentum of American imports began to wash away many vestiges of traditional Japanese culture that had survived this cultural invasion. Old values, old styles, old subjects were either effaced or the form and content of the new art forms were adopted. Even the animation for which the Japanese are now so renowned, which has become so tied to their notions of modern identity, and in which DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB) so clearly has its roots, was a reaction to, and adaptation, of the Disney programming filling the airwaves and cinema screens of the nation. It is telling, in this light, that DOB himself, while clearly taking his visual impetus from the anime characters, corporate mascots, and videogame protagonists of modern Japan, such as "Sonic the Hedgehog," has a more than coincidental visual echo of Mickey Mouse in his round ears. Is this the result of the hybrid nature--the splicing together, in effect--of American and Japanese animation? Or does DOB's apparel pay tribute to the cheap mementoes of visits to Disney World or Tokyo Disneyland, implying that he is an alien tourist lost in the Disney universe? While DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB) openly refers to this flood of American culture, it nonetheless presents the viewer with a new hero for a new era, an art form that deliberately and gleefully shuns the Western dyad of High and Low art to present us with a democratic art form derived from today's Japan.

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