Kawaii makeover in progress, by Sugarpill Cosmetics.
The first visit to Giant Robot S.F. for me was marked with a multitude of girls dressed in kawaii fashion to the point of filling up the gallery space and making it nearly impossible to see the artwork that I came to view. While GR-SF does not boast a huge exhibition space, there was initially enough room for people to get around, but as the aforementioned demographic continually filtered in things got tight. Still, I was not to be deterred and managed to snap a shot of each piece in the exhibition for your viewing pleasure.
A Girl with Some Pink Hearts on Her Back, by Eimi.
As a long time fan of Kaikai Kiki and it's female artists such as Chiho Aoshima, Aya Takano, Akane Koide and others, I was excited to see an exhibition of work by female contemporary Japanese artists come stateside. The cute theme is the common thread between all works in Shibuya Girls Pop: Real Japanese Kawaii, which opened with a reception on Saturday, February 5. As it turns out, Sugarpill Cosmetics was doing free kawaii makeovers in the gallery space, hence the appropriately attired contingent.
Rabbit Girl, by Eimi.
The show represents twelve female artists all part of the Shibuya Girls Pop project, which initially started in Shibuya as a distribution of free post-cards to woman in the city in order to spread a positive message. Artists from the collective that are in the show include the following...
Nana Aoyama, Eimi, Sayaka Iwashimizu, Marrontic, Hiroshi Mori, NICO, Keiko Ogawa, Ra'yka, Shinjuko, Yuki Takahashi, Kayo Tamaishi, and TAMMY.As a new Tokyo-based collective, Shibuya Girls Pop collaborated with Giant Robot to exhibit Real Japanese Kawaii for the first time in America. Yet in all honesty, none of the work blew me away. While a small number of pieces felt interesting, the show as a whole was not brilliant. The most interesting art pieces for me personally were those by Eimi, Kayo Tamaishi, and Yuki Takahashi. Both demonstrated technical skill, interesting use of color and good composition. The fact that the artists were not there in person certainly didn't help to drum up interest for the work itself either. As one person at the opening familair with GR put it, "it's just filler" until the next show goes up.
True or not, it is easy to dismiss this collection and blame whatever shortcoming on the organizers but I do want to be dilligent in acknowleding the collective itself. Kato Kazuhiro, director of Shibuya Girls Pop, has made available their concept in English. Expounding the cultural nuances of what kawaii means in Japan and how it has changed in other parts of the world it ultimately demonstrating the purpose of the project itself.
We already know the Japanese perpensity for all things kawaii. Kazuhiro touches on this point in saying that "in Japan (although there are many exceptions), there is a tendency that people's desire for 'Kawaii' does not change even after they become adults." In bringing illustrators together to produce kawaii art and then distributing it first in Japan and now abroad, the project hopes to demonstrate the true essence of the style as a lasting and universal form of expression which can appeal to a wide audience...
"Although it might be only a romantic, naive illusion, I think it would be great if I could show a universal 'Kawaii' that will not fade with the times or yield to media manipulation or labeling. I would like to propose 'Kawaii' that will survive even after the present global 'Kawaii bubble.'"
The exhibit at Giant Robot may not exactly live up to these ideals but, now that the fan-girls have left, you should go and judge for yourself. That is, assuming the show is still up by the time this post goes live. If not, check out the full album below or more pics from the show up on GR's blog as an inadequate consolation prize.