Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Masami Teraoka at Catherine Clark

The Last Supper/Pope's Mega Squid Thrust

Teraoka's  "The Last Supper/Pope's Mega Squid Thrust"  purports to address the Catholic Church’s millennium long sexual crisis with imagery right out of Ensor, Bosch and Penthouse Magazine. Rather than portray the Vatican's avoidance of the scandal or it's tenacious grip on its centuries old misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism and culture of status and privilege, Teraoka revels in sexy babes and a bit of S&M. That's fine but then, he also wants this to have deep, serious meaning. His imagery is so very personal that it's impossible to know what the various items represent - are the cherries representing virginity or defilement? Are the red shoes the Pope's or a sideways reference to Dorothy clicking her red heels three times with the wish "There's no place like home?"

According to one blurb I read, Teraoka's art is perhaps best explained by the artist himself. "I don't want my paintings to preach," Teraoka has said, "I am interested in that moment of confrontation with life when our psyche becomes shocked and naked--a vacuumed mind-set situation. A strong art is direct, but does not have any facade. It comes in a raw state."

I'm not shocked. I'm not feeling any particular confrontation.

I just see an artist intrigued by glitz, glitter and a great deal of self-indulgence masquerading under the pretense of artistic integrity and societal critique.

Compare this with his earlier work where he successfully Integrated traditional imagery and subject matter with pop art. That work didn't have to shock to make its point.

Teraoka portrayed contemporary issues—from AIDS to computers, environmental degradation, and drive-by shootings—in historical guise. Humor and satire combined with a vibrant iconography drawn from Japanese and Western sources—catfish, trickster, fox, ghost, snake, ninja, samurai, geisha, Adam and Eve, punk rockers, and television. The line was clean, the colors subtle, the imagery direct and compelling.

His work is now dark with imagery that's difficult to understand, within a picture frame that's cluttered with unresolved pictorial issues which can't be masked by his undoubted skill or the glitter of gold leaf.


31 Flavors Invading Japan

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