The Plastic Language of Japanese Neo-Pop Artist Hiro Ando
Drawing on ideas of collectability and fantasy, Japanese artist Hiro Ando combines tradition with contemporary culture in his sculpture work. Ando began as an illustrator in Tokyo and has since gone on to work in oil painting, video, and sculpture. He is co-founder of CrazyNoodles, a collective studio of several artists spread between Tokyo, Paris, and Beijing, who share a youthful Pop aesthetic steeped in manga and Japanese contemporary culture. They communicate with recognizable, appealing themes, striving to create art that is accessible, rather than high-minded or obscure. The collective’s website declares their vision to employ a “plastic language.”
Ando’s editioned sculptures resemble enlarged toy cartoon characters and bear the names SumoCat, Samurai Cat, UrbanCat, and RobotCat. They’re mainly monochrome and glossy, a few are enrobed in rhinestones or hand-painted. Ando’s work is the creative fruit of Japanese mass culture. His cat figures are reminiscent of maneki-neko (literally, “beckoning cat”), a ubiquitous Japanese cultural icon symbolizing good luck; maneki-neko figurines can be found in nearly every souvenir store and restaurant in Japan. Ando’s cats also resemble a masculine version of Hello Kitty, another emblematic feline character that originated in Japan.
Ando’s work shares the neo-pop spirit of Jeff Koons’ balloon dog figurines and Takashi Murakami’s “otaku” sculptures, though Ando’s sculptures do not convey the overt eroticism and darkness that much of Koons’ and Murakami’s work do. Ando expresses a lighter side of neo-pop, highlighting that contemporary art can be both fun and have wide appeal.