I’ve recently spent time contemplating the artwork of Takashi Murakami. And my respect for the artist continues to increase as I learn more about his tradition, process, and ideology. As part of my investigation, I discovered that one of the influences in Murakami’s art and his concept of "superflat" is the tradition of Japanese woodblock prints.
Recently, at the BYU Museum of Art, it was obvious how this ancient tradition could inspire something like Murakami’s paintings, sculptures, and other products. Windows on a Hidden World: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the BYU Collection is an exhibition featuring prints spanning hundreds of years. And you can see how they might have influenced Murakami.
You might think that Murakami’s use of Manga and Anime couldn’t come from influences in the early 1800s. But then you see Triptych Battle Scene by Utagawa Toyokuni, a print that feels comic-book modern, even though it's 200 years old.
And what about the line work in Behind the Waves off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)? This may be the most famous print in the show (and a print owned by Murakami). The line work is reminiscent of that in Murakami’s furiously happy flowers. It’s interesting that both Hokusai’s wave and Murakami’s chrysanthemums can be both friendly and menacing.
Some of the best prints in the show involve rain or snow. These prints seem illuminated from within, even in the exhibition’s dim light.
It’s worth seeing this show for its diversity and meditative nature. It’s even more interesting as you realize the influence these print makers have had on art, including the work of Manet, Monet, Degas, Cassatt, Van Gogh, and now Murakami.
Windows on a Hidden World is on display through January 19, 2008.