Much like the artist's personal history, PO + KU Surrealism Mr. DOB-Yellow, Green, Purple, Pink showcases contemporary art methodology with undertones of earlier Japanese eras. Like an Edo-era screen, or fusuma, breaks a scene into multiple panels so does this work break an image into panels. Yet, rather than the work being a large installation, it incorporates the more modern Japanese notion of kawaii, or "cuteness" in both its size and theme. Again harkening back to Japanese art of an earlier period, the motif of PO + KU Surrealism Mr. DOB-Yellow, Green, Purple, Pink is meant to inspire self-reflection. Many Japanese screens and scrolls created up through the nineteenth century, such as of a majestic plum tree, were meant for contemplation within oneself and the surrounding world. In this work Murakami presents repeated open mouths with the same intent. As the eye which reoccurs in many of Murakami's canvases is indicative of a presence on both sides of the canvas--artist and image--the repetitive mouth reminds a viewer that the artist is speaking through the art, opening a dialogue about oneself and the present world.
In fact, the artist is present in many of his works, seemingly speaking to the view. One will see in PO + KU Surrealism Mr. DOB-Yellow, Green, Purple, Pink a character known as Mr. DOB. This character, described by the artist as his own alter ego, is found in paintings, sculptures and films throughout his oeuvre. Based on the anime comics popular with Japanese youth, DOB makes an appearance in the work that is playfully similar to one of the United States most popular animated icons, Mickey Mouse. In the same way that Andy Warhol famously lifted everyday objects to highbrow artworks, so Murakami elevates themes of animated characters and mass consumption to timeless traditions. Murakami's tradition has become as iconic as the almost universally recognizable Japanese Edo-era style of the 1600s. His art encompasses many influences: traditional and new Japanese culture combined with contemporary aesthetics and Western thoughts that, together, are a new concept on its own.
Undoubtedly the most recognizable Japanese artist on the contemporary art scene, Takashi Murakami is praised not only for his work's ubiquity in American popular culture but also for challenging the boundary between fine and commercial art. Murakami was born in Tokyo and later received his Ph.D. from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in Nihonga. Nihonga translates to 'western style painting' and it is one of two possible tracks offered to those studying studio art in Japan - the other being traditional ink painting. During his education, Murakami also had an interest in early Japanese painting and took an interest in contemporary trends of anime and manga. By 1995, Murakami had begun to produce works in the style that he is known for today and which can be attributed to a convergence of his varied influences.
© 1998 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.