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Chiho Aoshima: City Glow at MFAH

I've already written about Aoshima's City Glow at the MFAH for the Chronicle last Sunday, but a blog is the perfect place to put in all the less relevant, more polemic bits that didn't make it into the newspaper. 

Every nice thing I said in the paper is true, it's beautifully made, and hauntingly strange. My main gripe against the piece is it's decadence. Aoshima doesn't genuinely believe civilization is coming to an end any more than you or I, but we can amuse ourselves imagining it. Cloaked in cute, it allows us to feel tragic and trendy at the same time.

In the newspaper, I didn't get to make a full critique of the BLT I ate while watching Aoshima's piece. Like Aoshima's piece, it was decadent. The baseball-sized wad of bacon Cafe Express crams in there to justify the sandwich's high price is false luxury. The essence of a good BLT is balance.

The filename on the MFA's press release misspelled Aoshima's name. This is significant not for sloppiness, since everyone needs to check spellings of unfamiliar names, and everyone makes mistakes, but because it underscores the alien-ness of Aoshima's art and the culture that produced it. The party line is that Aoshima is a pop artist, taking things from Japanese low culture and making them high art. It's difficult to tell. I didn't recognize any explicit bits of consumer culture, but then I'm not a Japanese consumer. At least there were no ads for Toyota, Nikon or instant ramen noodles.

There are obvious art-historical precedents. Japanese folding screens and scroll paintings, and their postwar low-culture counterparts Japanese comic books and animated films, which you must never forget to refer to by their Japanese names: manga and anime, lest you imply that they are somehow anything less than an autonomous world, truly understood only by its fans, and insulated from criticism by outsiders.

Exotic=glamourous, like the strip of metal embossed with the word "kerosene" nailed across the forehead of that African Mask in the Menil Collection.

also by Bill Davenport
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5 Responses

  1. Rainey

    Dave Hickey has said that no American artists have a chance anymore because of PC internationalism: it’s much sexier, and somehow more democratic, to show someone from Berlin than from Brooklyn. (He also said that there’s not a good art school in America anymore, which, if true — and it arguably is — doesn’t help matters.)

  2. bacon

    on another day, dave hickey also said that no good artists are being neglected and that the free market insures that the best artists are being shown and discussed. i would have to add UNLV to the top of bad art schools.

  3. bacon

    hickey made these comments(the free market and no artists worthwhile are being ignored) in an interview on kera radio while visiting dallas to speak before the dallas architect’s whateveryoucallit.
    personally, i can’t stand the cutsie crap coming out of japan.

  4. sagebrush

    dave hickey was pushing takashi murakami’s my lonesome cowboy and picked it for his top ten. it was tough for a local artist to get a show in new york at the time. dave hickey didn’t seem to mind.

  5. jolly

    if you know him (hickey) is to luv him-to luv him is to Know him.

    He thinks its all “over done” anyway.
    His art school is turning out some crap for sure.

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