The Left Fielders have a group show through November 20 at the nonprofit art space L’Keg Gallery in Los Angeles’s Echo Park. Since all three artists have Mississippi connections, I posted a series of interviews at Juxtapoz.
When I heard about Ali Neff’s book on the Clarksdale hip-hop scene, I was relieved that someone had finally decided to talk about something other than the blues. Someone was willing to engage the Delta on contemporary, relevant terms; someone was ready to listen to the young people. But Neff’s “Let the World Listen Right” (University Press of Mississippi, 2009, $50) begins and ends with the blues, so at times I forgot I was supposed to be reading about hip-hop. Despite such emphasis, Neff commendably links the music of the Delta’s past with that of the present, highlighting both the contiguity of Delta culture and the parallel structure and content of the music itself.
Takashi Murakami received his PhD from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts in a traditional form of Japanese painting called Nihonga, but after becoming fascinated with Japanese and American pop-culture he began creating “poku” art. Poku references a blend of pop and otaku (creepily obsessive fandom) rooted in anime, manga, comics and fashion. His work could be regarded as kitsch—life-sized pornographic anime sculptures, embellished cartoonish “Superflat” paintings and vapid overpriced smiley-face daisies—but for all the overtly ridiculous and even uninspired Murakami, his catalogue also includes insightful work that demonstrates the paradox of Japanese culture—insular but susceptible, xenophobic but fascinated with the West. Through pastiche, Murakami examines the pathologies of Japanese society—idol-making, over-consumption and the tendency to internalize emotion or either escape via fantasy (such as costume-play). And as a sometimes self-declared okatu who works with Louis Vuitton on bags and rugs and founded the Hiropon Factory (where assistants make his paintings, an objective similar to that of Warhol’s), Murakami is an active participant in the culture he critiques. “In Japan there is no high and there is no low [art]. It’s all flat,” Murakami told Interview Magazine in March 2001. And although his popularity waxes and wanes in his home country, he is consistently regarded elsewhere. His resume includes a list of prestigious shows, among them the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Brooklyn Museum, MOMA and MOCA.