A Japanese artist. Much of his work is reminiscent of Pop Art because of its use of commercial and pop culture components. His paintings use very uniform blocks of color to create a so-called superflat look, which makes the overall appearance of the work cartoonish. In fact, Murakami has made some sculptures -- e.g. "My Lonesome Cowboy" -- based on the drawing style of anime. Additionally, he created a cartoon character called Mr. DOB. According to information from his exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mr. DOB looks like a monkey to most people in Japan; but with his round face and big circular ears balanced on top of his head, Americans immediately associate him with Mickey Mouse and see him as a mouse. Embracing the commercial feel of his work, Murakami has a line of Mr. DOB merchandise that includes toys and shirt among other items.

Murakami tends to take somewhat mundane ideas (or, at least, ideas that have been used by many other people before him) and give them bizarre twists. For instance, in "My Lonesome Cowboy," he takes the well-known anime look and creates a larger than life sculpture with it. In addition to its unusual size, the sculpture is also unique because of the way it expresses sexuality. Of course, sexuality is often a part of anime and manga, but one hardly ever sees a nude male character in this style. The norms are twisted even more by the fact that the character is not only naked, but masturbating -- and the ejaculate has come out in the shape of a solid white lasso. So there's the element of humor, too. I have read that, along with the statue's female counterpart, "Hiropon," "My Lonesome Cowboy" makes a comment on the ridiculousness of the high degree of sexuality in anime. But interpret it as you will. A different sort of twist can be seen in Murakami's painting "Cosmos": a painting that, from far away, looks like a large sheet of silver wallpaper with flowers on it. But get a little closer and you realize that all of the flowers have super-cute smily faces. This one doesn't seem to have much meaning beyond what's laid out right in front of the viewer (another common theme in Pop Art).

One of my favorite Murakami projects is his group of abstract paintings of different parts of Mr. DOB (e.g. "Chaos"). In them, he takes eyes, cheeks, and pointy teeth and turns them into almost landscape-like paintings. The different parts are barely recognizeable except for the eyelash here or the uvula there. It's an impressive exercise in taking a fairly limited number of images and turning them into something new and unexpected.

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