Last Saturday night, Blum & Poe Gallery on La Cienega seemed to be the place to go. People poured in like faithful disciples for Takashi Murakami's "Arhat" show. “Arhat,” translated from Sanskrit, means “a being who has achieved a state of enlightenment.”The last time I saw his work was at the wondrously fun MOCA in 2007. The crowd was as colorful as the art. The art was populated with just as many interesting faces as the crowd. Sadly the artist was nowhere to be seen , except for his self portraits.
In the center of the main room, a towering golden flame sculpture rose from the floor. It was apply named "Flame of Desire", as everyone circled it with a sense of awe, secretly wished they had a living space that would structurally accommodate such a treasure. It reminded me of the sort of flames seen in the opening of "Blade Runner" where periodic towers of flame shot from refinery stacks.
Also, in this room were 3 massive multi-paneled paintings featuring hundreds of monks who had seen better days, hopefully. Their darting, wonky eyes stared every which way. It was like being in a room full of Marty Feldman's. Even the eye lid location, eye count and eye size was widely varied.
I love faces. The more distorted and unsettling the better. The artist's anime-type style allows for these potentially creepy old men to be viewed as more like gentle, lovable oddities. Each character is distinctively "different" in their own special way and assembled in a "Chorus Line" manner.
It's hard to tell if the assembled group is in a collective calm mediative state of bliss or on a wild acid trip. Either way, they all seem to be on their own personal journey far, far away. Nose hair is always more appealing when it is technicolor, I guess. Also, overgrown finger and toe nails are much more socially acceptable when applied with a kaleidoscope of nail polish colors.
I love my dog, Henry. Just as Takashi Murakami clearly loves his dog, Pom, as was evident by another one of his show themes. Henry happens to be a terrier pom. I sometimes take him to art shows and let him ride in a messenger bag I throw over my shoulder. As I walked in, I realized that I was unintentionally mirroring the artist's work.
I think, like many people, there is a a great feeling of peace when we are able to spend quiet time with our devoted animals, our little Buddha's. They help to bring out our softer, gentler selves and keep us humble. I took away, that in spite of Takashi's popularity and success as an artist, he still seems grounded in the simple pleasures life offers- Like spending time with his dog, taking time to smell the smiling flowers and remembering that we all have a limited time on this earth and need to make the most of it.
"Arhat" runs till May 25.
Words by Rick Galiher. Images by Stephanie Chefas.