photography by L Lewellen.
What happens when you marry a massive pop cultural item with art? In art history, you get Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans, Roy Lichetenstein’s ben-day dotted cartoon portraits, and the current art of Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama, all on view at the Broad Museum in down town LA. They celebrate the things we see everyday in kitschy, colorful, bold and brassy style.
But in Japan, that marriage has produced an exhibit, Pokemon X Kogei that is elevating pop art well beyond what Murasaki and Yayoi are doing. Kogei refers to the tradition of fine arts craftsmanship in Japan. And pokemon refers to cartoon monsters, movies, films and games to find, capture and train pokemon monsters (to use their “powers.”)
Four years ago, the Pokemon Company approached the National Craft Museum in Tokyo and managed to recruit 20 craftsmen who are fine artists to play with the idea of Pokemon. What was produced is now on exhibit in Los Angeles at Japan House in Hollywood.
It is truly fine art, exquisite in detail, elegant in design. But like great art, it is able to elicit an emotional response. In my case, a childlike enjoyment of “kawaii” expressions in the Pokemon “monsters.”
The exhibit is very well signed with the its history well laid out. There is even a small display of how “Pikachu’s Adventure in a Forest” was created from line drawings of pokemon shapes.
Japan House (and the Pokemon exhibit) is in Ovation, the circular shopping center that also houses the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards are held. It is near Hollywood Blvd. and Highland and is a stop on the B line train.
Do not miss this exhibit! It is free, although Japan House prefers visitors make an online reservation at their website. It continues until January 7, 2024.