Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum premieres major exhibition of anime- and manga-inspired works by Japanese contemporary artist Mr.
Phoenix Art Museum premieres major exhibition of anime- and manga-inspired works by Japanese contemporary artist Mr.
Sep, 08, 2022
Exhibitions and Special InstallationsModern and Contemporary ArtAsian ArtSpecial Engagement Exhibitions
Phoenix Art Museum premieres major exhibition of anime- and manga-inspired works by Japanese contemporary artist Mr.
Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town explores trauma, tragedy, and desire through fantastical paintings, drawings, and installations by one of today’s most popular Japanese artists
PHOENIX (September 8, 2022) – This fall, Phoenix Art Museum will present Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town, the first U.S. solo exhibition in more than five years to exclusively showcase the work of Mr., one of today’s most popular Japanese artists. Spanning the late 1990s to 2022, the exhibition features nearly 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and video works, including a recent Museum acquisition and a new 30-foot-long canvas that will enjoy its world premiere at Phoenix Art Museum. These vivid and often chaotic works—a large selection of which were created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—draw influence from anime, manga, and virtual fantasy worlds to examine themes of desire, tragedy, and psychological anguish. Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town will be on view in Steele Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum from November 6, 2022 through March 12, 2023, following a First-Friday preview and community celebration on November 4, 2022 from 6 – 9 pm. The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor, Ronald and Valery Harrar, Men’s Arts Council, Ms. Isabelle Georgeaux, Kevie Yang, The Japan Foundation–Los Angeles, and the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members.
“During this particular moment in history, marked by turbulent current events nationally and abroad that are reshaping the ways we interact with each other and how we reflect on our respective societies, Mr.: You Can Hear The Song of This Town provides insight into the mind of an artist who uses his practice to respond to global tragedies while exploring his own anxieties, frustrations, and angst,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “We are excited to present this compelling body of work—a reminder of art’s power to help us explore complex emotions that affect individuals across cultures—as we continue the Museum’s mission of creating points of connection and uniting people of different backgrounds through various forms of artistic expression.”
A self-described member of the otaku subculture—characterized by obsessive interests in anime, manga, video games, and other forms of Japanese popular culture—Mr. creates paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations that explore his personal fantasies and represent a wider reflection on solitude, fear, desire, and trauma. Informed by manga (a genre of Japanese art that includes comics and graphic novels) and anime (derived from the English term “animation” and used for cartoons in Japan), the artist’s works feature kawaii (or “cute”) style characters with wide eyes, colorful hair, and round, childlike faces that are meant to evoke feelings of moe (a profound adoration of or infatuation with fictional figures). These cartoonish subjects are often set against graffiti-like backdrops, which echo the traumatic loss of life in Japan during both World War II and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
“Mr. is most closely associated with Superflat, the post-modern art movement founded by the artist Takashi Murakami, with whom Mr. worked for a number of years before pursuing his individual practice,” said Gilbert Vicario, curator of modern and contemporary art at Phoenix Art Museum. “Mr.’s neo-pop work, however, descends from an even larger art-historical framework, drawing influence from 19th-century ukiyo-e prints, Pop Art, and abstract expressionism. He combines these influences with elements of Japanese popular culture and references he has gleaned from the internet, presenting them in fine art to examine the social mores of Japanese society and a global community obsessed with social media.”
Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Townis the first U.S. exhibition dedicated solely to the artist’s work since the 2014 Seattle Art Museum exhibition Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-pop. Organized by Phoenix Art Museum, You Can Hear the Song of This Town invites visitors to explore Mr.’s vivid, imagined universe. The exhibition showcases nearly 50 works created over the past two decades, illuminating the artist’s stylistic evolution. Older works from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s feature brightly colored characters with a doe-eyed innocence, while paintings and drawings from 2018 onward mark a dramatic shift in tone and composition. Various works dated 2021—created during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—depict solitary, kawaii-style characters in black and white. Devoid of the light, cheerful expressions characteristic of the artist’s larger oeuvre, these figures perhaps reflect the loneliness, isolation, anger, and confusion millions of people around the world felt as they sheltered in place over months in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The exhibition’s sole video work, however, demonstrates that the motivations behind Mr.’s artwork have long remained the same although his visual aesthetic has shifted over time. Created in 1998, the self-produced video features the artist moving through various poses with a samurai sword and was created following a break-up, reminding viewers that Mr. has always channeled feelings of anguish and anxiety—personal and collective—into his artwork.
About the Exhibition Mr.: You Can Hear The Song of This Townwill be on view from November 6, 2022 through March 12, 2023 in Steele Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor, Ronald and Valery Harrar, Men’s Arts Council, Ms. Isabelle Georgeaux, Kevie Yang, The Japan Foundation-Los Angeles, and the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members. For more details about the exhibition, please click here.
Admission is free for Museum Members; veterans, active-duty military, and their immediate families; and youth aged 5 and younger. Entrance into the exhibition is included in general admission for the public. During voluntary-donation times, the exhibition is $5 for the general public. Voluntary-donation times include Wednesdays from 3 – 9 pm, made possible by SRP and supported in part through the generosity of the Angela and Leonard Singer Endowment for Performing Arts, and the first Friday of each month from 3 – 9 pm. For a full breakdown of general-admission prices and hours, see phxart.org/visit/.
High-resolution photography can be downloaded here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or email@example.com.
Mr. Community Celebration: First Friday November 4, 2022 | 6 – 9 pm Valley audiences are invited to attend the First Friday opening celebration of Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town on November 4, 2022 from 6 – 9 pm. The evening will feature free Museum admission—including access to You Can Hear the Song of This Town—food trucks, live music, and arts-engagement programming. Details are forthcoming and will be shared on phxart.org and the Museum’s social media channels. The First Friday opening celebration of Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town is sponsored by the Men’s Arts Council.
The Men’s Arts Council (MAC) of Phoenix Art Museum, founded in January 1967, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports the Museum’s programs and activities through unique events such as the Copperstate Overland. The Men’s Arts Council’s efforts enable the organization to make annual contributions to Phoenix Art Museum’s operating budget and financially sponsor exhibitions. For more information, visit mensartscouncil.com.
To provide historical context to Mr.: You Can Hear The Song of This Town, Phoenix Art Museum will present an outstanding selection of Japanese folk art, prints, and more beginning in December 2022.
Demonic, Divine, Human: Japan’s Noh Theater Opening December 3, 2022 A form of classical Japanese theatre, Noh combines music, religious performance, dance, and drama. This exhibition showcases various Noh masks and the work of print artists who conveyed scenes of divine, demonic, and animal characters drawn from Noh plays. Presented at the same time as Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town, Demonic, Divine, Human allows visitors to draw connections between the contemporary artist and the creators of Noh masks and scenes. In his imagined universes, Mr.’s characters draw influence from anime, manga, and other elements of Japanese culture and represent a wider reflection on solitude, social anxiety, and fear. In Noh theatre, writers drew upon folklore, historical tales, and legends to create characters inspired by humans, spirit beings, and animals. These characters were then brought to life through masks, costume, and dance. For sponsorship information, visit phxart.org.
Beauty and Function: Japanese Folk Art from the Mayro-Stelitz Collection Opening December 3, 2022 In 1920s Japan, philosophers and craftspeople created the concept of mingei, or folk art, to challenge the narrow definition of art and uplift the beauty of everyday objects created by average people. In this exhibition, various traditional everyday objects from Japan are on view to the public for the first time, including pictorial shop signs, firefighter coats, futon covers, samurai helmets, and ceramic and metal utensils that feature folk motifs and symbolic designs. Presented at the same time as Mr.: You Can Hear the Song of This Town, Beauty and Function allows visitors to discover how Mr.’s works and historical Japanese folk art each challenge traditional definitions of fine art and reflect popular imagery from the time in which they were created. For sponsorship information, visit phxart.org.
Exquisite Enamels: Gifts of Japanese Cloisonné from Waynor and Laurie Rogers Opening December 3, 2022 Artists began creating cloisonné centuries ago in Europe, and from there, techniques spread throughout the Middle East to China and Japan. Utilizing fine wires and glass paste, cloisonné artists created richly colored surface patterns on a variety of objects. This exhibition showcases significant examples of Japanese cloisonné from the 19th century, when cloisonné enamel techniques peaked on the island and wares became a successful export. Along with Mr: You Can Hear the Song of This Town, Exquisite Enamels illuminate how Japanese artists have long combined outside cultural influences with traditional art forms to create new styles that are rooted in history but with a modern outlook. For sponsorship information, visit phxart.org.
About Phoenix Art Museum Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the leading art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit phxart.org, or call 602.257.1880.
About Mr. Mr. (b. 1969, Cupa, Japan, lives and works in Saitama, Japan) approaches the visual language of anime and manga as a means of examining Japanese culture, fusing high and low forms of contemporary expression. Like his fellow Superflat artists, such as Takashi Murakami, Mr. utilizes otaku, the “cute” Japanese subculture that is marked by an obsession with adolescence, manga, anime, and video games. Mr. graduated in 1996 from the Department of Fine Arts, Sokei Art School in Tokyo. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at HOW Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2021); Musée Guimet, Paris, France (2019); Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (2014); and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France (2006), among others. Select group exhibitions featuring his work include MURAKAMI VS MURAKAMI, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2019); Bishojo: Monsters, Manga and Murakami, Musée en Herbe, Paris, France (2019); and Islands, Constellations & Galapagos, Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan (2017). His work is in numerous international public and private collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, and Daegu Art Museum in South Korea.