Installation view of “NEO JAPAN,” Micheko Galerie, Munich. Courtesy Micheko Galerie.
The seven artists on view here all live and work in Japan, producing street art, animation, and illustration, as well as traditional fine art and multiples. They address several contemporary issues facing the globe, including the impact of energy consumption, the spreading tentacles of political and cultural power, and the disruptive power of artistic production.
The illustrative work of imaitoonz, a fine and graphic artist, is psychedelic and filled with visual excitement. His trippy giclée print, Japanese Mushroom (2007), is extremely detailed and colorful, with a bright purple mushroom-like form placed centrally in the image, like a Christian religious icon. The vegetable is made of swirling bits of psychedelic matter, and is reminiscent of Arcimboldo’s mannerist portraits—paintings of people composed of delicately arranged fruits, vegetables, and other plant matter. Here, however, we see the vegetable itself made of even smaller atomized particles. Below it, crossed flaming swords, lightning bolts, and a red Rising Sun give the image added significance.
Imaitoonz’s Studio Cat (2014) is an imaginative portrait of a young woman, done up with cat-like make-up, fangs, and slitted pupils. Her face is tattooed with the print’s title, she wears an array of wires and headphones and music devices, and a bird perches in her hair on a pencil. One might imagine her as an avatar for the artist at work: part techne, part human, part feral, with a manic collection of references and images colliding in one spot.
John Hathway’s works are as equally surreal and dense. Selection of Life, a 2012 giclée print on canvas, shows a young girl (in the style of a Japanese anime character) seated at the top of a radio tower, surrounded by a forest of other such structures. The print is mostly composed as a landscape, though a strange one, with its vertical format and vertiginous use of wide-angle perspective.
Many of Hathway’s cityscapes are designed for use by witch-like characters—little girls flying through the clouds and skyscrapers. They’re surrounded by steampunk technology: elaborate Victorian machines with dials, vacuum tubes, and lights. In Robotic Lolita (2014), Hathway shows two girls in a hall overlooking a cloud city, fixing a gold-plated and velvet lined machine. Scientific Alice (2014), likewise, shows a busty young girl, with stockings and something like a technological archive. The artwork serves as a metaphor for the show itself: the psychedelic pop art on view here updates the graphic and technological approach of earlier arts, looking backward through history and forward to the future.
“NEO JAPAN” is on view at Micheko Galerie, Munich, Apr. 2 - May 16, 2015.