Photos: Takashi Murakami Brings Glorious Sensory Overload To The MCA

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 5, 2017 3:50PM

Artist Takashi Murakami's work has alway been eye-popping. His characters and colors leap off the canvas, his sculpture trends toward the arresting, all while carrying a pop sensibility that allows his work to be immediately satisfying. Unless you've seen his pieces in person, you are only getting a fraction of the story though. A visit to the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Chicago over the next few months supplies those missing pieces, in a gloriously immersive manner that may see you making a few return trips just to process the whole thing.

Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is the first major museum retrospective dedicated to the artist in over a decade, and it's quite a get for MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling. It pulls together everything from rarely seen pieces from the 1980s to brand new work from just a few weeks ago—some of which was actually finished on site as the exhibit was being assembled. Between those eras you will see a wide sampling from across Murakami's career. There are the expected crowdpleasers, including Mr. DOB, Kanye Bear, and the daisy paintings (examples of which can be seen in our gallery of images from the press preview).

2017_06_murakami_pano.JPG
Photo by Jim Kopeny/ Tankboy

But when you enter the exhibit space, you realize that nothing could have prepared you for the sheer size and scale of Muakami's work. Paintings take up entire walls. Sculptures reach into the ceiling. The level of detail in the pieces is amazing, at times causing you to worry you might get sucked into the pores of this character or that. It is impossible to take everything in on your first trip around the space; it takes a good half hour for your retinas to stop buzzing enough for you to truly concentrate on the work.

During a chat between Darling and Murakami, the question about the consumerization of art came up, and Murakami seemed genuinely puzzled by it. At the time I thought it was fairly obvious, especially since so much of what I'd seen of his work seemed perfectly suited to pop-up trucks and t-shirts. But when you see his stuff in person it's apparent that, while he has no issues with people using merchandise as a way to enter his world, those consumables can't possible convey the true richness of his art. In order to do that, you need to stand in front of a floor-to-ceiling piece and just allow it to drip slowly all over you.

Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg runs from June 6 to September 24, 2017.