Monday, May 9, 2011

Uki Uki and Bye Bye Kitty

Thanks to an open house at Japan Society, I had the opportunity to see Bye Bye Kitty – the organization’s latest art exhibition. The open house was part of their “Uki Uki Nights” a way to bring in a youthful crowd with cosplay parade, go-go dancing, and games with the girls and guys behind Apple Kissa, a maid performance troupe created by the New York Anime Festival.

Bye Bye Kitty is an exhibit advertised as the darker side of kawaii – an antithesis to Hello Kitty, the well-known feline character known for its incredible cuteness. The first few rooms hold artwork that is a fusion of Japanese techniques (i.e. ukiyo-e style prints) with modern creative ideas. It is also one of the few exhibitions Japan Society has done that is more modern in concept.

When you first enter you gravitate towards an image of an at-like hill mound, only to realize the mound is composed of salarymen and women. It sort of hits home with the idea of Japanese men and women trying to climb to the top of the corporate ladder, as well as a play on Japan’s increasing unemployment.

There are two pieces by Manabu Ikeda, prints of massive proportions illustrating a version of a type of "Tree of Life." I was greatly impressed by the use of cross-hatching and the time-consuming idea of it all that can only be seen through a magnifying glass, available nearby the two prints. Even then it’s still hard to take it all in.

All of pieces in the exhibit will shock and awe, but then again that's what Japan is known for. Bye Bye Kitty is a representation of today’s view on Japanese culture – a mish-mash fusion of past, present, and future in art. One could also try to describe it as “gurokawa” a term that Gashicon uses to describe Hangry and Angry. While Hangry and Angry depict a more kawaii than grotesque, Bye Bye Kitty is more grotesque than kawaii.

I hope that Japan Society continues their series of Uki Uki nights because it’s an excellent way to expose today’s Japanophiles with the more examples of Japanese culture that's not associated with anime, manga or Pokemon.

Were you at Japan Society’s Uki Uki Night (if you were what did you think)? What do you think of Bye Bye Kitty?

Bye Bye Kitty
March 18 - June 12th, 2011
Japan Society
333 East 47th Street 
New York, NY 10017

Admission: $15 / $10 seniors and students

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