TAKASHI MURAKAMI (b. 1962, Tokyo, Japan) Enso:Breathing, Acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame, 2017. The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Gift of Barbara ’68 and Theodore ’68 Alfond, 2017.6.57.
Contemporary, Japan-based artist, Takashi Murakami has defined his practice through satire and social critique of the art world. Born and raised in Tokyo, he attended Tokyo University of the Arts and majored in Nihonga, a traditional form of Japanese painting. He continued to study and earn his Ph.D. in Nihonga, but around that same time, began to explore other forms of artistic expression. In 2000, he developed his “Superflat” theory and postmodern aesthetic which manifests across media in both his personal output and his collaborative projects with A-list designers, musicians, and artists. Some of his most notable collaborations include Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Marc Jacobs, Google, and Louis Vuitton. Perhaps due to his collaborations, Murakami has been critiqued as an artist who straddles the line of art and commercial product, or “high” and “low” art. In response to those claims the artist states, “I don’t think of it as straddling. I think of it as changing the line. What I’ve been talking about for years is how in Japan, that line is less defined…In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that's okay—I’m ready with my hard hat.”
Though much of his oeuvre is characterized by his investigation of current Japanese visual culture, threads of historic Japanese art resonate in each work. He has created pieces inspired by manga, Kawaii culture, and Ukiyo-e wood engraving. The period following the 2011 Japan Earthquake, marked a significant shift in Murakami’s creative output; one that exchanged cute, colorful visuals for darker imagery. He became fascinated with the importance of religion and spirituality in Japanese culture in the wake of natural devastation. His Ensō series revisits ancient Japanese tradition and explores spirituality through the symbol of ensō, which represents a complex spiritual path to perfection.