I finally visited Aida Makoto’s major retrospective “Tensai de Gomen Nasai” or “Monument for Nothing” (as its English subtitle runs). Though less well-known internationally than Takashi Murakami or Yoshitomo Nara, Aida is one the preeminent figures of Japanese contemporary art.
Much has been written about this artist and if you’re familiar with his work, you’d understand why. It’s clear he has errr…his issues but I still admire his provocative works of manga, painting, video, photography, sculpture and installations. He explores Japanese society exposing topics which range from suicide to war, pedophilia, sex, politics, death and the relationship between Japan and the “West”.
The scale of his works is simply stunning. Seen from the distance, his murals and portraits of contemporary Japanese imagery seem to honor Japanese traditional art but upon closer examination, you’ll find out that the artwork has been twisted into something disturbing. I admire artist like him who straddle the fine line between offending and promoting his own culture.
It wouldn’t surprise me if people find him offensive and disturbing. “Dog”, one of his best known series of traditional Nihonga paintings, portraits innocent female amputees, some of them leashed as dogs. The big painting “Blender” depicts a hell scene where thousands of naked girls are used to make a special concoction or what the artist likes to call “cranberry juice”. “Ash Color Mountain”, one of my favorite murals, depicts at first sight a classical landscape but when you get closer you realize that the mountains are actually made of the bodies of office workers (aka salarymen in Japan) piled up one on top of each other. This exhibition even features an x-rated area that is off-limits to minors.
You can love him or hate him, but one thing is certain: Aida looks beneath Japan’s calm exterior and examines what is hidden, exposing the elements which people often don’t look at.
More information can be found at: http://www.mori.art.museum/english/contents/aidamakoto_main/index.html
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