Currently on display at the Japan Society in New York, Bye Bye Kitty! is a provocative art exhibit that exists to challenge the Hello Kittys and Pikachus that are so prevalent in contemporary Japanese pop culture.

As this incredibly insightful article from the Washington Post details, the exhibit, Bye Bye Kitty!!!: Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art” was intended to set the stage for a new generation of artists — eight men and eight women, ages 28 to 46, working at a uniformly high level in a wide range of mediums — who all reject the supercute Hello Kitty style that dominates the country’s pop culture. But in the aftermath of the natural disasters, and in the continuing unsteadiness as the world follows the updates from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the works of these artists have assumed a deeper portent.

The darker tones of the art in this show inevitably took on a more somber tone in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11. Rather than bubbly, sugary anime or manga characters, the exhibit features works of art depicting slightly twisted variations on Japanese imagery that just couldn’t help but be seen in a different light due to the circumstances.

The Washington Post article describes the hardships that many contemporary Japanese artists face, as they are continually overshadowed by the prolific work of Takashi Murakami, who is considered the Japanese Andy Warhol. Many artists, the article says, find it difficult to carve their own unique artistic voice in a society dominated by the work of Murakami and other top-notch creative minds. This exhibit is one way in which these artists are given an exclusive way to get their work shown.

I encourage you to read the whole Washington Post article, as it provides in great detail the background of many of the artists included in the exhibit, as well as more general information about the show.

You can also click here to visit the exhibit’s official website and see samples of art from some of the artists involved, as well as information about tickets and the show’s schedule.

If you are in NYC  and even remotely interested in Bye Bye Kitty!, I urge you to check it out.

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