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RETHINKING SYMBOLS

The “Takashi Murakami: Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow” and “This Is Not America’s Flag” combined exhibitions at the Broad bring us the power of symbolism and its interpretations through multiple artists and evolving cultures. Muramaki uses “augmented reality” to express trauma and disaster. The artists featured in “This Is Not America’s Flag” challenge the meaning of patriotism and one of its main symbols, the American flag.

The curator of Murakami’s works is Ed Schad, whose extraordinarily well-curated exhibitions on Jasper Johns and Shirin Neshat I have covered. Sarah Loyer, the young curator of “This Is Not America’s Flag,” successfully orchestrates an ensemble of disparate artists, from Jasper Johns to Alfredo Jaar, to Vito Acconci, to Wendy Red Star. What is extraordinary at this double-feature show is that the two contrasting exhibitions blend seamlessly. Although each one could have a stand-alone in its own right, the synergetic togetherness demonstrates that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Murakami’s work is powerful, whether he expresses himself at the scale of In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, 984 x 118 inches (2500 x 300 cm), or in My arms and legs rot off, and though my blood rushes forth, the tranquility of my heart shall be prized above all. (Red blood, black blood, blood that is not blood), 32 x 27 in (83 x 70 cm,) or humorously is the Nurse Ko2 “overly-sexualized” female nurse, a distant cousin of America’s Barbie Doll.

The “Not America’s Flag” exhibition holds its power as a whole. Although Jasper John’s Flag is a heavyweight, it is the multiple interpretations under one roof that forces us to rethink symbols at a time when “The Big Lie” is followed by 35 percent of Americans and over 80 percent of Russians approve of Putin’s war.

Watching on livestream Muramaki’s conversation with Etsuko Price (1) at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Los Angeles was instructive. Although known for his eccentric exhibitionism, listening to what he says (through translation) helps get into his mind and better understand the complexity of his multi-layered architectural thinking.

Note (1) During our trip to visit and photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower, I visited Joe wand Etsuko Price at their house and gallery in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The house’s architect, Bruce Goff, was there (some of our photos can be seen in https://archidocu.com/sideways-1971/ scrolling down to BARTLESVILLE, OKLAHOMA.)

Takashi Murakami in conversation with Etsuko Price, japan House, Los Angeles, May 20, 2022.

Takashi Murakami in conversation with Etsuko Price, japan House, Los Angeles, May 20, 2022.

Painting with sinister eyes

Red Blood, Black Blood, Blood that is not Blood, 2008

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