Oval atop a Cosmos Ball by Takashi Murakami is a plastic sculpture. Murakami is the originator of the art movement called Superflat. This movement uses fantastical and grotesque creatures to show the audiences his concerns about the insecure future of Japanese culture. This ambiguous sculpture is composed with simple geometries and bright color chunks in such an excessive and hyperbolized way that it reveals different dynamics through the three distinct spaces in the work.
The cartoon Buddha sits in the first space in the work. The excessively happy innocence is temporary, and the feeling of strangeness that surrounds the audience hits almost instantly. The individual organs confess the dark and terrifying side of the enjoyable aspect of Japanese culture through the circular eyes staring permanently at one point and the gaping, devouring mouth, Murakami channels Japanese animation productions through the way that the frame of the eye is too large to match the eyeball, turning the Superflat into Superawkward. Along with the reverent nature of the Buddha, he awakens and frames one of the most important previous traditions – the respect and fear towards the dolls. Murakami’s persistence in the Japanese animation style also highlights a problem in Japanese culture, which is the increasing relation to commercialism and materialism.
Similarly, the smiley face flower, a staple of Murakami’s work, transmits a sense of happiness and brightness. These traits are transitory and the repetitions of the identical faces bring the audiences forcefully into a fantasy that the original functionality of everything is denied and changed. Where the Buddha is attractive and yet disturbing, the Cosmos Ball generates panic under innocence with the omnipresent, endless duplication and identicalness. Interestingly, there is a compartment in the ball that can be opened to reveal a platform with a mini-CD containing music by Zak Yumiko. This secret part gives the sculpture a toy-nature, reflecting an important theme underneath Superflat – the power of innocence, which is shared by the entire Japanese popular culture.
The third space is the metallic-colored liquid of eyes melting, flowing and vanishing, and the non-positive emotions collide with the happy and innocent environment on the upper levels. Images of identical eyes express Murakami’s concern towards how Japanese have irresistibly copied all the Western cultures after World War II. Consequentially, all of the cultural outcomes are Superflat, lacking of depth and meanings. It is impressive for Murakami to have realized that as early as 1990s. Murakami is one of the most important pop artists currently, and he is bitterly satisfied to see the global significance of the expanded frame of Japanese pop art.
By Evy Li, Class of 2016