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February 2010
 
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March 14th, 2009
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 04:24 am

When I was living in New York in 2000, a magazine called Idol (which never launched, but that's another story) interviewed me. John, the editor, wanted the feature to be illustrated with drawings as well as photographs, so one day in June he brought along to my Orchard Street apartment a 22 year-old Japanese girl he'd found selling tiny dolls at the corner of West Broadway and Prince. The girl was quirky, fearless, funny. She made sketches of me in which I'm a mushroom man in a t-shirt that says MOM and a kind of naked homunculus with big feet:



This was Misaki Kawai. In the eight years since then Misaki has done very well. She no longer sells her wares on the street, but shows with galleries like Kenny Schachter and Clementine in New York. She's even had a solo show at The Watarium in Tokyo.



Vice TV -- VBS -- dedicated an episode of their art show Art Talk to Misaki, and her Bushwick apartment looks huge, stocked up with the big, colourful abject-cute paintings she now makes (you can see a selection on her website). As she told Ashley Rawlings, Misaki's aesthetic is based on the idea that "when something looks cute but has a funny or weird aspect to it, I think it’s really special. That kind of cuteness has a very strong character." She also likes anthropomorphised turds, idiotic-looking animals, and fart jokes.



Misaki (an Osaka girl who went to art school in Kyoto) mentions during the Vice show that she's a big fan of an old NHK kids' show called Dekirukana (できるかな), which translates as Let's Make Stuff or Can You Do It. There's almost nothing online about Dekirukana, but here's a clip of the opening and closing titles:



I'm not sure if NHK do anything that cute-funny-weird these days, but if you want to see for yourself, I highly recommend KeyholeTV, an internet TV application which allows you to watch many of the Japanese mainstream TV networks in real time, free. They just released the Mac version last week, and it works really well. Here's a screenshot from a calligraphy special I saw the other day:


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