Opening - Bye Bye Kitty!!! @ Japan Society Gallery in NY

Makoto Aida
In recent years, Japanese contemporary art has too often confined itself to the restrictive hierarchies of the antique, the childish or the cute. Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, curated by David Elliott, founding Director of the Mori Art Museum, is a radical departure from recent Japanese exhibitions. Moving far beyond the stereotypes of kawaii and otaku culture, Japan Society’s show features sixteen emerging and mid-career artists whose paintings, objects, photographs, videos, and installations meld traditional styles with challenging visions of Japan’s troubled present and uncertain future. Each of the three sections, “Critical Memory,” “Threatened Nature,” and “Unquiet Dream,” aims to demolish preconceptions about contemporary Japanese art. A shimmering taxidermy deer (last seen in Singapore's SAM) and a gasp-inducing canvas depicting a tumulus of minuscule salary men are among the compelling works will greet visitos to Japan Society Gallery in NY from Friday, March 18 to June 12.

Manabu Ikeda

Kumi Machida
Many of the paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, and videos in Bye, Bye Kitty!!! illustrate the manner in which today’s artists in Japan creatively sample Japanese pictorial conventions, ultimately reframing tradition—whether it be the conservative aesthetic of traditional Japanese painting and sculpture or the graphic ingenuity of Ukiyo-e prints.

A two-panel work by Makoto Aida, for instance, emulates the traditional decorative form of painted screens, but with imagery—two massively heroic schoolgirls squared off against one another, each hoisting a South Korean or a Japanese flag aloft—that is a biting commentary on today’s uneasy East Asian relations. 

The 16 artists represented in Bye Bye Kitty!!!, half of them women, are Makoto Aida (b.1965); Manabu Ikeda (b.1973); Tomoko Kashiki (b.1982); Rinko Kawauchi (b.1972); Haruka Kojin (b.1983); Kumi Machida (b.1970); Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959); Kohei Nawa (b.1975); Motohiko Odani (b.1972); Hiraki Sawa (b.1977); Chiharu Shiota (b.1972); Tomoko Shioyasu (b.1981); Hisashi Tenmyouya (b.1966); Yamaguchi Akira (b.1969); Miwa Yanagi (b.1967); Tomoko Yoneda (b.1965). Half of the proceeds of this exhibition will go to the Society's Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.

Kohei Nawa