In the autumn of 1859, American journalist and businessman Francis Hall wandered the shops of Yokohama, Japan. Hall had just arrived in the city, five years after Commodore Perry forced a trade treaty on the country, opening ports to American ships under threat of naval attack, and ending a centuries-long isolation of Japan to most foreigners. In his journal, Hall recorded an encounter in one shop where the owner and his wife pulled out a number of boxes that contained carefully wrapped books “full of vile pictures executed in the best style of Japanese art.” He continued:

[The shop owner] opened the books at the pictures, and the wife sat down with us and began to ‘tell me’ what beautiful books they were. This was done apparently without a thought of anything low or degrading commensurate with the transaction. I presume I was the only one whose modesty could have… More…

 

Walking into the Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art is like walking inside a toy store that is itself inside of a comic book. You’re immediately confronted with a life-sized statue of Miss Ko, one of Murakami’s leggy cartoon broads, directly referencing the Japanese comic traditions of anime and manga. She fits somewhere uneasily between Saturday morning children’s entertainment and porn. The middle of the giant first room of the exhibit is taken up by “Second Mission Project ko,” in which Miss Ko characters are robotized. They are to be found in various states of transformation, from well-endowed naked females to futuristic fighter planes (plus a vagina and a breast or two). The surrounding walls are covered with typical Murakami canvasses: bright colors, shiny flowers, the bobbing face of DOB, a vaguely Mickey Mouse-like character who… More…