J Art-Japanese Pop Art
What is Pop art? Pop art as a movement started in the
1950s in Britain and the U.S. which takes its art from popular mass culture
as opposed to the elite art world. Today the term can still be used for art
as an expression influenced from the mainstream culture of the masses.
While Andy Warhol was making his Soup Cans famous in the U.S., a new and exciting art in Japan was starting to form and take on a course of its own.
Tanaami and American Influences
One of the first and most important of the Japanese pop artists is Keiichi Tanaami. He was educated at the Musashino Art University, and would take a designer job after graduation. It wasn't long before he left the company he worked for due to his busy schedule with outside activities. These creative activities included experimentations with animation, lithograph, illustration, and editorial design.
By the late 60s, Tanaami traveled to the United States where he had an influential meeting with Andy Warhol in his legendary Factory in New York. He was very happy to have met Andy while he was doing his silk-screens, and much of his work was inspired by Andy's style. Later, after moving to San Francisco, the Japanese artist's work became very colorful and psychedelic. He even designed a cover for Jefferson Airplane.
Much of Tanaami's work comes from dreams and memories. He remembers as a child squeezing goldfish that were about to die, until their guts came out. You can see this in some of his goldfish sculptures. Gruesome and interesting stuff.
Manga and Anime
Perhaps the best known contemporary Japanese artist today is Takashi Murakami. He is attributed with the modern art style known as "superflat," for a blending of traditional art with newer concepts deriving, in part, from manga and anime. These artworks are known for their flat planes of colorful images.
While Andy Warhol in the 1960s was turning consumer products into art, Murakami is now turning art into consumer products. He says he knows how much the Japanese people love art, but very few can afford the upper class art. So he creates affordable art anybody can afford. His art comes in the form of toys, paintings, sculptures, dolls, and mannequins, T-shirts, videos, and any other type of product readily available for consumers. He also designed a Louis Vuitton handbag.
His art is often colorful and imaginative, such as the painting entitled "727." Some of his art is daring, such as his "My Lonesome Cowboy." The "Cowboy" shows an obvious reference to American culture with the lasso made from the, uh, fluids.
Graffiti and Childlike Figures
Like Murakami, Japanese artist Yoshimoto Nara derives his style from Manga and anime. His work is usually done in graffiti-type painting and the characters are often cute and childlike, but which also possess dark characteristics. These characters come from a meshing of childhood memories and an input of contemporary style. What you get is a unique consumer art product.
There's an excellent British miniseries called Japanorama, which chronicles the host's seeking of Japanese culture in general. One of the episodes is all about J-Art and has the above artists and much more. So check it out, and don't forget to watch it with a nice hot bowl of Ramen.
About the Author
Dan Kretschmer keeps a daily blog at
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