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Bye Bye Kitty!!!: a celebration of Kawaii art

The Japan Society is doing an exhibition that everyone should see, even if you can only experience it online. Called Bye Bye Kitty!!!, it offers fifteen artists, working in painting, sculpture, installation, photography, and video. But the point is to skewer the whole cult of cuteness in Japanese art called Kawaii. We’ve all seen this: the big eyes, the pert nose, the high voices, the spry animals.

Some say the need to be infantilized was Japan’s response to the emasculation of losing the war, being demilitarized, and having their Emperor publicly humiliated. Along comes this exhibition with a central message of ‘grow up, folks!’ The work is exciting, particularly Yamaguchi Akira’s Narita International Airport [see above], a leviathan-like painting that the medieval crazy man, Hieronymus Bosch, would have been proud of.

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