Takashi Murakami took the language of street smarts and hard work and combined it with low-brow imagery. In a flurry of repetitive, obsessive art making, he become the archetypal artist that Sarah Thornton used for a sample “studio visit” in Seven Days in the Art World. His production struck a chord that rings with the bright futuristic colors of youth—adolescence in particular—when “tunes” are a common ground that expresses what everyone feels—an inclusive time of life. Murakami extended his arm of influence further, as high-end designers, convinced by his graphic quickness turned art into glitz, glam and glory with a distinct aroma of cold cash.

Continuing within this acceptable avant-garde, he formed an alliance with Evan Pricco, the editor-in-chief of Juxtapoz Art & Culture, a magazine from San Francisco, and together they curated Juxtapoz x Super Flat at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The first piece seen on disembarking from the escalator is Murakami’s monumental piece Mibu Ha-an + Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment: Beyond, 2016. Laudably, a rule is broken as a curator curates his own work into the exhibition and in doing so brings it up a notch. The piece is majestic with a humble, faded elegance as if a backdrop has collapsed or a great painting in progress (it is on linen) has been overturned by history. Irreverence runs with a flag of triumph throughout the exhibition despite the legitimate parameter of art that transfers subjects from street to institution. Alongside Mirukami’s grand statement, there are funny ceramic anthropomorphic figures slumped on the floor, hanging out, such as Octupus by Otani Workshop. We have entered the fun house …

Staged in the rotunda are three giant figures in a mélange of materials by Elizabeth Higgins O’conner from LA. A sad-eyed donkey, hate staying the ending that love started to say brings to mind a prepubescent world of fantasy as if characters have been pulled from childish dreams into the adult frame of reference. With stature guaranteed by size, the quality is reinforced by evident workmanship. From a similar child’s perspective, the body is diminished in face of the object in Friedrich Kunath’s giant hand, You know More than I know, with the beautifully rendered wolf staring from the palm. Kunath’s work salutes other species, reversing man’s totalitarian dominion to gain insight in exchange.

There are queer and wonderful beings like the crouching submissive, Anxiety, pleading, protecting itself from a blow, fleshy pink in urethane foam, hard-coated and shiny, by PARA (Pieter Jansen), a Dutch illustrator. The twisted- leg loungers in Paco Pommet’s painting Social are succinct yet absurd and all too familiar.

At the heart of the exhibition we are offered the chance to draw from a life model (David Shrigley’s, Life Model, 2013 Turner Prize) and as a result to have the drawings displayed for the day in the Vancouver Art Gallery. The model is out of proportion, elongated as if foreshortening has been ignored. Periodically, he blinks and because he has to remain still for a very long time there is bucket before him in which to pee and when he does the sound of the stream of liquid bursting into the tin pail dominates the consciousness.

Truly POP, the exhibition revolves around alternative lifestyles as it breaks generation barriers with power sufficient to blaze through the mire of attention-seeking advertisements and media that bombards contemporary culture. The exhibition, impressive and gymnastic, remains accessible to “the ordinary Jo”. Without stooping to the level of brazen indecency (like some politicians in a play to identify with the common man) Juxtapoz x Super Flat celebrates the imagination, with justified theatrical acumen and ignites enthusiasm for the audacious innovations of perceptive artists. The works, sanctioned for all-ages consumption and isolated within individual spaces for maximum reception, retain cheekiness.

Reviewing the didactics – Kaikai Kiki Gallery is frequently acknowledged but this is the world seen through the spirit of graffiti and in this initiative Identity is asserted and ground claimed. The move from outside (the street) to inside (the gallery) is justified for given the chance to grace the halls of a venerated institution, Murukami and Pricco’s picks are informed. New blood is brought to the fore and the under-appreciated are lauded. The voice of “the people” is a clarion cry that the art world has now deemed worthy but still, thankfully, retains an edge. 

Juxtapoz x Super Flat
Vancouver Art Gallery 
November 5, 2016 – February 5, 2017