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The rise in popularity of emoji in the West has followed the same course as how Ernest Hemingway describes a man going broke: “gradually then suddenly.” Now, emoji seems to be everywhere from Hollywood movie billboards to, well, the Oxford Dictionary. But for artist Shinji Murakami the world is just catching up to his love affair with the pictograms originally developed by Japanese mobile phone operators in the late 90s.

Inspired by the ancient yet versatile 8-bit technology, Murakami has been creating works harken back to Dragon Quest, Zelda and other video games of his childhood. And now he’s presenting a series of new works during a major solo exhibition in New York.

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The title of Shinji Murakami’s new show. Its pronunciation is debatable.

Playfully titled using 9 different emoji, Murakami has created 14 works in flat, sculptural and LED form, filling Catinca Tabacaru Gallery with flowers, hearts, rainbows, sparkles and a galloping horse. Using the idea of emoji as pixels and, in turn, pixels as building blocks, Murakami masterfully sculpts his objects from wood creating perfect replicas of the ideograms we now so casually send.

Murakami’s solo show is opening tonight and is on display through February 21, 2016. If you love Shinji’s work and New York’s Central Park (like we do!) check out this 8-bit map he created.

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Murakami’s sculptures, some reaching 5-feet in height, are rendered of hand-cut wooden blocks, painted in acrylic and enamel, and stacked to create bold minimal forms.


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In the same vein, three paintings and an LED drawing use no more than a few colored squares to express the complex environment that incarnates a virtual world into our physical realm.

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