Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

Pop artist Takashi Murakami is a storyteller. He uses a clean line, bright colors, and traditional mediums of printmaking and sculpture to reach a global audience. He is largely revered as “the new Andy Warhol.” Just as Warhol used objects of consumerism and images of celebrity in much of his work, Murakami introduces manga style anime characters of his own making into museums. He is a commentator and an influencer. At the MCA this summer (June 6-September 24), Murakami welcomes everyone into a world of his own making in “The Octopus Eats its Own Leg.”

Distinctive to Murakami, particular characters will appear in multiple works. Piece together storylines, create narratives, and become the characters. The colorful flower faces will undoubtedly be a favorite to the Chicago audience.

Pay attention to the layout of the exhibition. What works appear next to each other? Do certain works interact with one another? There is an energy distilled in each of the sculptures and prints, the characters almost asking onlookers to join them on adventures and thrills. The repetition of particular images create dynamic nuances among his images and adds a depth of personality within every character represented.

After walking through the exhibition a first time, now accustomed to the characters and well versed in the setting of this mystical, colorful world, notice how the images are presented. Are the sculptures shiny or matt? Can you see yourself as one of his characters? How does a circular presentation engage the eye differently than a triptych panorama shot? Ask questions. Trained largely with a Western art history background, Murakami creates a striking mix within his art of the traditional and contemporary, maintaining a sensitivity to Japanese culture while also entertaining a Western influence.

Even beyond the MCA’s exhibition space Murakami is influencing popular culture. The world presented within the exhibition space is transferring into everyday life. To the masses, Murakami is best known for the anime bear face that graces the cover of Kanye West’s infamous “Graduation” album. He also animated the “Goodmorning” music video, transforming Kanye West into the bear (complete with white jacket and Kanye sunglasses” in a futuristic Chicago. In 2013 Murakami took over the château du Versailles. Huge shiny anime characters consumed the luxurious rooms and the magnificent gardens. The metallic finish of the sculptures acted as a reflector of passersby and mirrors to the opulent walls, chandeliers, and painted ceilings of the home of France’s royalty. In 2003, he collaborated with Louis Vuitton with a line of bags that altered the traditional monogram in a rainbow of colors and introduced a design into the monogram pattern of “octopus eye.”

Murakami has transcended conventions of typical artistry and and has become a director, bag designer, cover artist, and much more. He is at the forefront of the contemporary arts scene among Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. Enter “The Octopus Eats its Own Leg” and discover a world that is fantastical and honest.