"My art is not pop art," Takashi Murakami once said, correcting an interviewer. "It is a record of the struggle of the discriminated people." The Tokyo native's artwork graces the kinetic cover of Kanye West's new album, the top-selling "Graduation," which, come to think of it, also shakes and bakes social themes in its crowd-pleasing rhythms.
Murakami, 36, who has a hotly anticipated show at MOCA opening Oct. 29, is a subversive hero in museums and malls everywhere. He's the alpha wizard behind Superflat, the art scene that plucks its influences from manga and animé but uses the low-art energy to shake and bake modern society for its banality, exhausting consumerism and need for fetish.
The front cover of "Graduation" shows a Pokémon-like figure being launched into space, an appropriate image given that West's album rocketed to the top of the national sales chart last week, easily grabbing the No. 1 slot with the highest first-week sales of the year, just shy of 1 million copies.
West has long been drawn to fine art, which he studied at Chicago's American Academy of Art on a scholarship. The rapper has become a serious collector of postwar and contemporary art, including works by Warhol and Murakami, the latter represented in the living room of his L.A. home with a 6-foot canvas.
"In the past year and a half," the musician who calls himself "the Louis Vuitton don" told Interior Design magazine recently, "I've been stepping up my relationship with Murakami." The artist is probably best known outside art circles for his work with designer Marc Jacobs on accessories bearing the name of the Parisian fashion house.In other words, if you need pop art, it's in the bag.
-- Geoff Boucher