Asian art can refer to the vast genre of art and artists throughout the Asian continent. The history of Asian art is as varied as the cultures that make up this region of the world. From ancient bronze sculptures in India to the Manga cartoons of Japan, each country has a distinctive perspective on the world around them. In this paper I will look at three proposals for gallery shows of Asian art, each completely unique in their view of Asian culture. The first group looks at “Pop culture in Asia” focusing on the works of artists Wang Guangyi, Satoshi Kon, Takashi Murakami, and Basak Aditya, as well the art of Japanese tattoos.
Organizing such conflicting works together seems disjointed and lacking coherence. Indeed the idea of Pop culture in Asia could be defined in multiple ways, but this grouping lacks consistency and logic. Works by Wang Guangyi, Satoshi Kon and Takashi Murakami, each with their pop art style and references, would be a good match for a show focusing on pop culture. Wang Guangyi reinvents propaganda posters from the 1960’s and 70’s into capitalist propaganda posters, using the same triangular composition and palette.
Takashi Murakami is known for his sculptures of highly stylized cartoon or invented characters, referring to the popular culture of Japan or contemporary films. Satoshi Kon is a director of animated films that are loaded with Japanese cultural references and symbolism. I believe the work of these three artists would have been enough for a succinct show of Pop culture in Asia. The addition of the works of Basak Aditya and Japanese tattoos makes this grouping lose its focus.
Although the work of Basak Aditya, with his poetic landscapes and dream-like portraits, is interesting, it is not a good fit because they are too personalized and make no references to the pop culture of India. And finally the addition of Japanese tattoos just seems like an arbitrary decision. Although some tattoos may have pop cultural references, the inclusion of photographs of skin art is incompatible with the cohesion of the first three artists in the grouping. The next group “Art and Power” successfully showed a variety of artwork that represented power throughout the ages.
Beginning with paintings from the Chinese era of emperors and using concise language to demonstrate their interpretation of power. This group then looks at the brass and copper sculptures of Buddha, Shiva, and Jambhala, clearly demonstrating the power of religion in the regions of Tibet and India. Next are a grouping of decorative and ceremonial items from Korea, signifying the power of the ruling and upper-classes of ancient Asia. This grouping ends with a group of painting and sculpture of samurais and two thangka paintings.
The overall consistency of the objects and paintings used for this grouping makes for a successful exhibition. All the works chosen were clearly indicative of power in this well organized grouping. Finally the last group chose “Asian Animation” as a theme. Again this is a clear and well put together group of mostly Japanese cartoons and figures. This group first looks at the work of Satoshi Trajiri, and the media franchise of Pokemon. This group clearly spent time on creating colorful cartoon-like backgrounds to add to their clear, well planned presentation.
They then look at the illustration work of Akira Toriyama and his colorful, well defined sharp edge illustrations. The group then looks at toys and costumes that are created from these cartoons and comics, again using a similar background to unify the presentation. Although some of the content is repeated at the end of the grouping, the overall vision of presenting these comics and cartoons as art forms is cohesive and easy to understand. The group points out how important comics as an industry is to Japan and their cultural affects throughout the world.