‘Miss Hiropon’ (1997) and ‘My Lonesome Cowboy’ (1998) are seminal works by Takashi Murakami because they symbolize the cultural revelations that his work exposed about Japanese culture to the art world and the world at large. The life-size figures reference a sordidly sexual side of Japanese Otaku culture that exists in manga, anime, eroge, figurines and dolls. Modern day Otaku uphold the Surrealist fascinations of automata and the femme-enfant. Some Hentai (Japanese for Pervert/related media) and Lolicon gokko (Play toys for men with Lolita Complex) can be extremely transgressive. The two dimensional origins of such products are easily dismissed as harmless because they are such a far-removed representation of human beings. However, with the realistic output that modern technologies now achieve, I believe certain products violate moral, if not legal, boundaries.
Mr. Murakami’s new figures, titled ”My Lonesome Cowboy” and ”Hiropon,” mesmerize through an unsettling combination of innocence, carnal knowledge, beauty, exquisite artifice and arrested movement.
”Hiropon” is especially good, caught in mid-skip while her milk, spurting from enormous breasts, circles her body like a jump rope. She presents both a much more complicated state of mind and a richer array of art-historical references, from ancient paintings of Madonnas and milkmaids to Vargas girls. ”My Lonesome Cowboy,” whose semen swirls above his head like a lasso, is simplistically macho; ”Hiropon” deserves a more nuanced consort.
But in both there is the miraculous, rather decorative suspension of bodily fluids, the big colorful prisms of the eyes that suggest abstract paintings and the odd thrill of seeing a fictional cartoon, which normally inhabits a television screen, made three-dimensional and life size. The saving grace of the new figures is that after their shock value has declined, as all shock value must, they are still interesting to look at. That’s more than can be said for a host of precedents, including the erotic sculptures of Jeff Koons or Allen Jones.