Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

  • A red, white, and silver cartoon mouse character is positioned diagonally so that its round head, bulbous ears, smiling grin and large friendly eyes fill the square canvas.
  • A horizontal expanse of abraded blues, purples, and beige, across which a stylized white stream meanders. A red, white and blue bulbous creature wtih jagged white teeth and resembling Mickey Mouse appears to ride the currents of the stream.
  • A painting dominated by a large bald head of a male figure with bulging eyes, broad nose, long ears and grimacing smile. Brushy, calligraphic Japanese characters fill the upper left corner of the composition.
  • A brightly colored landscape with a giant multi-colored humunculous sitting on top of a hill, its open mouth revealing jagged teeth, seeping fluids while pustules explode from other parts of its ovoid head.
A red, white, and silver cartoon mouse character is positioned diagonally so that its round head, bulbous ears, smiling grin and large friendly eyes fill the square canvas.
Takashi Murakami, And Then, And Then And Then And Then And Then (Red), 1996–97. Acrylic on canvas mounted on board; 2 panels, each: 110 × 118 in. (280 × 300 cm). Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo. © 1996–97 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Norihiro Ueno.
A horizontal expanse of abraded blues, purples, and beige, across which a stylized white stream meanders. A red, white and blue bulbous creature wtih jagged white teeth and resembling Mickey Mouse appears to ride the currents of the stream.
Takashi Murakami, 727, 1996. Acrylic on canvas mounted on board; 118 1/10 × 177 1/5 × 4/5 in. (300 × 450 × 7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of David Teiger, 2003. © 1996 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Tom Powell Imaging.
Takashi Murakami, Flower Ball 2, 2002. Acrylic on canvas, and wood; 39 ½ in. (100 cm) diameter. Private collection. Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin. © 2002 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Norihiro Ueno.
A painting dominated by a large bald head of a male figure with bulging eyes, broad nose, long ears and grimacing smile. Brushy, calligraphic Japanese characters fill the upper left corner of the composition.
Takashi Murakami, From the perceived debris of the universe, we are still yet unable to reach the stage of nirvana, 2008. Acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on wood panel / signage in gold leaf; 70 15/16 × 84 in. (180 × 213.4 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo. © 2008 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
A brightly colored landscape with a giant multi-colored humunculous sitting on top of a hill, its open mouth revealing jagged teeth, seeping fluids while pustules explode from other parts of its ovoid head.
  1. Long A bulbous cartoon creature fills the saturated blue background of this wide rectangular painting full of bright, ecstatic colors. It is surrounded by dozens of smaller cartoon figures. Topped by two circular, multicolored ears, the figure has large, drooping eyes and a wide mouth—nearly as wide as its head—that opens in a menacing grin, revealing jagged rows of sharp black teeth. Covered with blotches of white and muted greens, oranges, pinks, and reds, its body blends in with a similarly colored hill below it. Two small feet with overgrown nails and a tiny pair of testicles and penis, however, differentiate the two forms. A thick, multicolored goo oozes from the corners of the creature’s mouth, and the globs of orange, brown, red, cream, and blue coalesce on the land below. With long white arms, one of which holds a staff topped by colorful skulls, the looming figure appears to preside over small creatures taking part in grotesque, brightly colored scenes, including a few critters on the far left, who purge variegated sludge; another who chomps down on a multicolored phallus out of which an even smaller figure emerges; and one on the right with squinting, watering eyes who opens its teeth-filled mouth to ingest a grub-like form with protruding spikes. The painting evokes a jubilant sense of chaos. The bottom edge of the canvas is lined with low rolling hills sparsely dotted with various two-dimensional daisies sporting big red smiles. A few clusters of fluffy white clouds in the background come in contact with two thick green lines that are visible between the hills, giving the impression of a horizon line. Though the relative size of the hills and the horizon line would suggest a great distance between them, the landscape appears foreshortened.
Takashi Murakami, Tan Tan Bo Puking - a.k.a. Gero Tan, 2002. Acrylic on canvas mounted on board; 141 ¾ x 283 ½ × 2 ½ in. (360 × 720 × 6.7 cm). Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin. © 2002 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Adam Reich.

About

Known for his collaborations with pop icon Kanye West and fashion house Louis Vuitton, and for vibrant anime-inspired characters, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (b. 1962) has blurred the boundaries throughout his career between high and low culture, ancient and modern, East and West. The MCA is proud to present a major retrospective of his paintings, featuring fifty works that span three decades of his career, from the artist’s earliest mature works—many of which are being shown in North America for the first time—to his recent, monumentally scaled paintings. The exhibition, titled Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, shows how Murakami’s art is rooted in traditions of Japanese painting and folklore, and highlights the artist’s careful attention to craft and materials. It also showcases the artist’s astute eye for the contemporary influences of globalization, media culture, the continued threats of nuclear power.

Murakami’s increasingly complex paintings are filled with characters and scenarios both cute and menacing, saccharine sweet and critically acidic. They are evidence of a conflicted, concerned, and committed commentator on cultural production who recognizes that any effective “hook” is bound to have a sharp point. Throughout his career, and especially over the last ten years, Murakami has combined spectacle with sophistication, transforming the art world while establishing his own reputation within it.

Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and is curated by the MCA’s James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling.

The exhibition is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum’s fourth floor.

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with original essays by the show’s curator, Michael Darling, and Michael Dylan Foster, Chelsea Foxwell, Reuben Keehan, and Akira Mizuta Lippit, as well as excerpts of previously published writing by Murakami translated from the original Japanese.

Installation Images

Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Work shown: Takashi Murakami, Starchild, 1992. Fabric and mixed media; 156 ¼ × 256 in. (397 × 650 cm). Courtesy of the artist. © 1992 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Work shown: Takashi Murakami, 69 Arhats Beneath the Bodhi Tree (detail), 2013. Acrylic, gold leaf, and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board; 10 panels, overall: 118 1/8 × 393 ¾ in. (300 × 1,000 cm). Collection Lune Rouge. © 2013 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Work shown: Takashi Murakami, Embodiment of “Um”, 2014. FRP, stainless steel, zelkova wood, and acrylic; 169 ¼ × 103 3/8 × 99 5/8 in. (430 × 262.4 × 253 cm); unique. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo. © 2014 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Work shown: Takashi Murakami, The Octopus Eats its Own Leg (detail), 2017. Acrylic, gold leaf, and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on wood panel; 45 panels, overall: 256 × 1,378 in. (650 × 3,500 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin. © 2017 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, MCA Chicago, Jun 6–Sep 24, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Funding

Lead support for Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is provided by Kenneth C. Griffin, Helen and Sam Zell, Anne L. Kaplan, Cari and Michael Sacks, Galerie Perrotin, Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, Gagosian, Andrea and Jim Gordon, and Susan Gaspari-Forest and Robert Forest.

Major support is provided by Blum & Poe and Liz and Eric Lefkofsky.

Generous support is provided by The Bluhm Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Jennifer and Alec Litowitz, Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd., Adidas, Matt Bayer and Joyce Yaung and the Bayer Family Foundation, The Japan Foundation, Robert J. Buford, Marilyn and Larry Fields, Nancy Lerner Frej and David Frej, and Dana and Brian L. Newman.

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