all images © mr./kaikai kiki co., ltd. | courtesy lehmann maupin gallery | click to enlarge

Fine art or an unhealthy obsession with prepubescent girls?

Fine art or an unhealthy obsession with prepubescent girls? The question will undoubtedly be on many people’s minds when Japanese artist Mr. unveils a new body of work at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York tomorrow. One of Takashi Murakami’s more successful protégés, the 42-year old artist first exhibited at Lehmann Maupin in 2007, where his paintings of girls “lifting their skirts, flashing bits of underwear and fearfully gazing up at a naked man’s crotch” were the center of much attention. But this time around, the self-proclaimed otaku with an unapologetic Lolita complex wants to be taken more seriously as he imbeds his personal fantasy-laden work with deeper, darker themes relating to the catastrophic events of March 11, 2011.

production sketch for installation

“the Japanese people rose in a unified effort to recover from the devastation of the loss of World War II,” says the artist in a press release. “But along with the recent economic stagnation, the earthquakes in Eastern Japan, and the after effects of the nuclear disaster, a collective depression from an inability to vent their frustrations continues to accumulate within their society.”

The centerpiece of the show plans to be a chaotic installation that mimics a typical room of a single otaku male, immersed in his own delusional fantasy about young girls. Viewers are invited into this unsettling yet seductive space where they are given glimpses into the psychological state of otaku, and hence Japan. Composed of garbage, gadgets, magazines and everyday things, the installation is supposed to remind us of the debris that blanketed Tohoku in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Is Mr. all grown up? Perhaps. The title of his show “Metamorphosis” would seem to indicate some form of development. Until you realize it’s actually “Metamorphosis: Give Me Your Wings,” a forceful turning-of-the-tables that at once removes any realistic responsibility from the artist. And that makes me happy. I would hate to see an artist like Mr. grow up.