Gallery: Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art


When New York’s Japan Society planned its latest art exhibition, Bye Bye Kitty!!!, its goal was to provide an alternative view of a country whose art has long been associated with the overly cute and cartoonish. With this month’s disaster in Japan, the exhibit takes on greater significance, spotlighting a grimmer, more chaotic vision of life in the newly ravaged nation. Subtitled Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, the show is divided into three sections — “Critical Memory,” “Threatened Nature,” and “Unquiet Dream” — and features a selection of artists who are pushing boundaries in their country’s creative realms.

A number of related programs are taking place in conjunction with the exhibition — which opens today and runs through Sunday, June 12 — and in light of the recent tragedy, Japan Society is now donating 50 percent of all ticket sales through June 30 to aid victims of the devastation. The organization’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has already raised over $500,000; you can also contribute directly by making an online donation. After the jump, check out a gallery of images from Bye Bye Kitty!!! and learn more about Japan Society.

Click through below for a gallery of images from the exhibition.

Makoto Aida, Harakiri School Girls, 2002. Print on transparency film, holographic film, acrylic, 46 3/4 × 33 3/8 in. (119 × 84.7 cm). Courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery. Photo: Kei Miyajima. Watai Collection. Copyright © AIDA Makoto.

Manabu Ikeda, History of Rise and Fall, 2006. Pen and acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board, 78 3/4 × 78 3/4 in. (200 × 200 cm). Photo: Kei Miyajima. Courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery. Takahashi Collection. Copyright © IKEDA Manabu.

Tomoko Kashiki, Roof Garden, 2008. Acrylic, pencil, and paper on cotton, mounted on wood panel, 88 1/2 × 72 in. (225 × 183 cm). Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Kumi Machida, Rocking Horse, 2010. Sumi (blue), sumi (brown), mineral pigments, other pigments, and color pencil on kumohada linen paper, 55 × 44 1/2 in. (140 × 113 cm). Collection of the artist.

Yoshitomo Nara, untitled, 2008. C-print, 10 1/2 × 7 7/8 in. (26.6 × 20 cm). Courtesy Tomio Koyama Gallery. Copyright © Yoshitomo Nara.

Kohei Nawa, PixCell Deer #24, 2011. Taxidermized deer, crystal glass balls. © Kohei Nawa.

Motohiko Odani, SP Extra: Malformed Noh-Mask Series Half Skeleton’s Twins: Tosaka, 2008. Wood, natural mineral pigment, Japanese lacquer, paulownia-wood box, and other media, 8 5/8 × 7 5/8 × 2 3/4 in. (21.5 × 19.5 × 7 cm). Courtesy YAMAMOTO GENDAI.

Chiharu Shiota, Dialogue with Absence, 2010. Painted wedding dress, peristaltic pumps, transparent plastic tubing, dyed water. Courtesy Galerie Christophe Gaillard/Haunch of Venison.

Yamaguchi Akira, Narita International Airport: Various Curious Scenes of Airplanes, 2005. Pen and watercolor on paper, 38 × 30 1/8 in. (96.5 × 76.5 cm). Photo: Kei Miyajima. Courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery. Private collection, New York. Copyright © YAMAGUCHI Akira.

Miwa Yanagi, My Grandmothers/HYONEE, 2007. C print, plexiglass, text panel, 51 1/4 × 39 3/8 in. (130 × 100 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Yoshiko Isshiki Office. Private collection, New York. Copyright © Miwa Yanagi.

Tomoko Yoneda, Kimusa (National Military Defense Security Command), 2009, no. 09. C-type print, 25 1/2 × 32 3/8 in. (65 × 83 cm). Courtesy ShugoArts. Collection of the artist. Copyright © Tomoko Yoneda.