Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Appropriating Photographer Yasumasa Morimura

Japanese artist/photographer Yasumasa Morimura challenges passivity in viewing art. His work is based on timeless classics from the likes Warhol, Rembrandt, and Duchamp and reinvents the images by placing photos of himself in place of the human figures. Two of his works are part of the UBS Art Collection, currently showing at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

Here's Morimura's take on Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase:

(Angels Descending a Staircase, The UBS Art Collection)

Each face, foot, figure is his own, and with individual expression. While the figures are mirror images left and right, it becomes off-kilter in the lower half of the work. This piece challenged me to think about similarities and contrasts: same/different, male/female, surface/substance, western/eastern.

The Angels work is definitely SFW (safe for work): the UBS collection works hang in the corp's meeting rooms, offices, and such. Not all of Morimura's pieces are SFW however. Many are downright provocative and can be off-putting for the uptight set.

Check his web gallery for the more challenging images: particularly this not SFW pinup and marilyn. And some amusing SFW images: still life with fruit, pop music. (I don't know the real titles. The site is in Japanese.)

The Mori Art Museum's current show is Art is for the Spirit with pieces from sixty contemporary artists, including Qin Ga, Gebhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Jean-Michael Basquiat (!), Masumo Vitali Riccione, and Roy Lichtenstein. The show runs through April 8th, 2008. The museum is located on the 52nd floor of the Mori tower in the Roppongi Hills development. Admission includes access to the Tokyo City View.

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