Fear the semen lariat: Murakami’s hell-plastics

“When I consider what Japanese culture is like, the answer is that it all is subculture. Therefore, art is unnecessary.” – Takashi Murakami

It’s easy to discount Takashi Murakami’s work as pure design – the explosion in his popularity has led him to work with rapper Kanye West and the Luis Vuitton label, both pinnacles of pop-consumer culture in their right. However, even five minutes within the (c)Murakami exhibit at MOCA will put an end any such assumption.

Seeing this art full-scale in all its Technicolor glory, hundreds of manga eyes, dripping fangs and rainbow vomit exploding from fields of flat color made me actually wish I were under the influence of psychedelics, yet grateful I was not. Video projections, massive acrylic sculptures and canvases with deranged cartoon bears ballooning into grotesque monsters, surrounded by grinning daises that look almost exactly like digital prints because of precision with which they’re painted. This is undoubtedly the work of an artist, despite the fact that Takashi Murakami rarely paints these works himself. While he remains in charge of all his art and products, the actual work is done by other artists in his Warhol-style factory.

Murakami has taken the now-homogenized Spooky Cute Thing imagery [think Gloomy Bear, etc] and turned it inside out. He confronts his audience while entertaining, making it impossible for the viewer to mindlessly browse. His overwhelming commercial success isn’t ignored, rather punctuated; in the middle of the exhibit is a conspicuous Luis Vuitton salesroom where visitors can spend $600+ on a Murakami-designed wallet, or $500,000 on a trunk filled with his versions of Vuitton purses. Outside, on the walls is projected an animation of the famous LV logo alongside Murakami’s signature daisies


The 3D piece de resistance for me was the aneurysm-inducing Reversed Double Helix Рa shiny thirty-foot plastic representation of Buddha flanked by four marshmallowy ambassador figures. A close runner up is Second Mission Project KO2 Рa 3-piece sculpture of an android girl in various stages of of transforming into a fighter plane. Certainly worth mention is the inspiration for the title of this article Рa nude life-size anim̩ cowboy energetically spewing a lasso of acrylic semen from an impressively erect penis.

Click image for several close-ups.”I paint hopelessness” says Murakami in an interview, and after a couple of hours inside the exhibit it really begins to sink in. Every shiny eye, every squishy cartoon character, every melting mass and psychedelic curve signal maniacal despair. Paradoxically, it’s impossible to have the Murakami experience be anything less than positive. His versatility and powerful imagination shine over all the doom, leaving the mind in a state of inspired explosion of its own.

12 Responses to “Fear the semen lariat: Murakami’s hell-plastics”

  1. the daniel Says:

    This exhibit was an awesome way to spend a sunday afternoon. Such pleasant, child-friendly imagery, what with the smiling daisies and all…

  2. jason carlin Says:

    I hope everyone took the time to explore the transforming woman trio of sculptures, which was just awesome. It was kinda tucked away near the entrance and the third piece in the series was hung from the ceiling. I got the feeling a lot of people may not have noticed it in the crowd…

  3. lauren Says:

    That is just freaking colorful glory.

    PS: Is this Mer? It says the Faun Fables ladies and it appears it’s her on the left, but it is such a shaky camera…

  4. Brock McCoy Says:

    Am I really going to beat Ben to the punch on this one? RE PS: Most likely. Earlier this year I saw a very similar looking lady open for Secret Chiefs 3 at the Troubadour under the name Faun Fables, but unfortunately YouTubs does not allow for DNA testing. She even chatted about how one of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum members had recently gotten married and that was evidence of them “getting old”. Moreover, because Nils (the lead singer in SGM–BUY ALL OF THEIR ALBUMS NOW) is involved with Faun Fables, I believe it is most likely your Mer.

    Me thinks I go see this exhibit on Saturday, thanks for the heads up!

  5. zoetica Says:

    Response time!

    The D – Yes, trust the nice daisies. Daisies would never hurt you.

    Jason – That would be Second Mission Project KO2 – runner up for my favorite sculpture at the show!

    Lauren – the lovely pale lady to the far left is our dear Mer indeed.

    Brock – the day we can DNA test through the internub will be a day of many sorrows.

  6. Jim Says:

    Wow, I saw some of his work last year when I finally went to the (relatively) new modern art wing of the Denver Art Museum. Fascinating stuff to be able to see up close like that; I’m so divorced from most pop culture that I had no idea until I saw some kind of news piece about him last week that he’d become so popular.

  7. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Und to think, cartoons still aren’t taken seriously in ze U.S. Thankfully, there are those like Murakami doing their part, fighting ze good fight. My current fave is Jamie Hewlett, whose name I trust ye know. For my part, I’m attempting to do ze same with my current web comic. Plug plug.

  8. Paul Komoda Says:


  9. lauren Says:

    Oh yay! I spotted a Mer! I hope she’s enjoying her time in FF. I’m sure jealous of those who can witness it live.

    By the way, I’d just like to say the bloggers here have the coolest names ever. Zoetica, Nadya, and Yayanos. Those words are quite fun to say. Really. I love it. :)

  10. Violaine Says:

    Wow. You know, I never really took his work that seriously because it was just too colorful and wacky for me, but this write-up actually made me consider his work a bit deeper. It was this line that did it: “Every shiny eye, every squishy cartoon character, every melting mass and psychedelic curve signal maniacal despair.” I never really thought of it like that. But wow. You are right.

  11. biorequiem:Zoetica Ebb » 2007 in review - the opus Says:

    […] Murakami exhibit at MOCA, which inspired me to write this review […]

  12. Paul Komoda Says:

    Down at Toy Tokyo, I used to see these beautifully made miniatures
    ( gashopon?) of those blue- balooney, multi-eyed, beasts as well as some other Murakami characters set in one of their display cases. Regrettably, I was a little destitute at the time, and if I recall, they weren’t exactly inexpensive.
    I’ll have to be content with my T-shirt of that character for now.