Mr. (b. 1969, Cupa, Japan, lives and works in Saitama, Japan) approaches the visual language of anime and manga as a means of examining Japanese culture, fusing high and low forms of contemporary expression. Like his fellow Superflat artists, such as Takashi Murakami, Mr. utilizes otaku, the “cute” Japanese subculture that is marked by an obsession with adolescence, manga, anime, and video games. Alongside his interest in otaku is an engagement with the 1960s Italian art movement, Arte Povera. Inspired by these artists’ use of unconventional materials and purposeful amateurism, Mr.’s earliest magna-style paintings and drawings were on store receipts, takeout menus, and other scraps of transactional detritus.
Prior to 2010, Mr. often incorporated the hypersexualized portrayal of young women prevalent in otaku into his work. Known in Japan as lolicon, a portmanteau of “Lolita Complex,” this word has come to refer to the otaku preference for graphic anime images of young girls. However, in the years since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown in Tohoku, Japan, Mr. has paired the cute characters, bright colors, and clean finishes characteristic of his work with a gritty and abstract painting style reminiscent of his early Arte Povera-inspired work, through which he explores themes of destruction. In his exhibition with Lehmann Maupin in 2012 and at the Seattle Art Museum in 2015, Mr. presented a large-scale, immersive installation of garbage and everyday objects from Japanese life, standing as a reminder of the debris that blanketed Tohoku in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster. Viewers were invited to physically interact with the work, getting a glimpse into the psychological state of Japan while remaining alien to the experience. Since then, Mr. has extended this sentiment into his paintings, trampling, tearing and burning his canvases to give his surfaces a distressed, textured quality, often at odds with the innocence of the bright-eyed cartoon figures he paints on top.
Mr. graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, Sokei Art School in Tokyo in 1996. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ (forthcoming); HOW Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2021); Musée Guimet, Paris, France (2019), Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2014); and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France (2006). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include MURAKAMI VS MURAKAMI, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2019); Bishojo: Young Pretty Girls in Art History, Museum of National Taipei University of Education, Taipei, Taiwan (2019); Monsters, Manga and Murakami, Musée en Herbe, Paris, France (2019); Megane To Tabisuru Bijyutsuten, Aomori Museum of Art, Aomori, Japan (2018); Create Your Own Original Doraemon, Mori Art Center Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2017); Islands, Constellations & Galapagos, Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan (2017); Murakami by Murakami, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2017); Animamix Biennale 2015-2016, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, South Korea (2015-16); Kyoto-Tokyo: From Samurais to Mangas, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco (2010); Animate, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan (2009); KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2008); RED HOT: Asian Art Today from the Chaney Family Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX (2007); and Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture, Japan Society, New York, NY (2005). Mr.'s work is in numerous international public and private collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; and Daegu Art Museum, South Korea.
Artist portrait: Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli