Twilight of the Turbulent Gods
Long known for photographs in which he transforms himself into Western culture’s feminine icons — from Mona Lisa to Marilyn Monroe — Yasumasa Morimura decided two years ago it was time to tackle the male “realm of politics and war.”
His second batch of celebrated 20th-century soapbox shouters, “Twilight of the Turbulent Gods,” has now hit Shugoarts in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, Tokyo, and it includes 16 videos and photographs in which the artist channels the identities of Hitler (right, detail), Che Guevara, Lenin, Einstein and others.
In one video work, a mustachioed Morimura playing Charlie Chaplin playing Hitler runs through a diatribe animated with an impossibly contorted face and flying spittle. It’s nonsensical, peppered with references to kintama (testicles) and doitsu (which can mean “who” or “Germany”), both of which sound German and inspire laughter in prepubescent boys.
But the work’s appeal is broader than that. After a few minutes Morimura slips effortlessly into Chaplin’s moralizing mode and makes an impassioned speech suggesting that there are still dictators in today’s world, and, worse yet, they are us.
What would the Lenins and Guevaras — with their conviction, their ostentation, their passion — bring to our new century? Cries against consumerism? Disillusionment? You can decide, but be warned: Come to this show and you’ll leave with your New Year’s resolutions revised.
Through Feb. 16 (free); www.shugoarts.com
Monet and French Landscape
There’s a satisfying symmetry in the “Monet and French Landscape” exhibition. Paintings such as Claude Monet’s “Sunset on the Seine in Winter” (right) and Gustave Loiseau’s “Low Tide at Grandcamp” are accompanied by maps showing just how far out of Paris the artists traveled before they set up their easels to paint.
Having yourself just made the two-hour journey southwest of Tokyo, winding up in the beautiful foothills of Mount Fuji where the Pola Museum is located, the idea comes naturally: these guys traveled about as far from Paris to make these paintings as I did from Tokyo to see them. Two hours — by car or train and bus — is enough to bring on a degree of isolation, and, with it, a tendency to slip out of the mind-set of city dwellers.
It’s little wonder then that, just like the late 19th-century artists’ “discovery” of France’s regional landscapes, excursions to the Pola Museum of Art, which is tucked into a valley in the Fuji-Hakone- Izu National Park, generally elicit gasps of surprise at its beauty. It makes so beautiful a new year’s outing, you might be prompted to take up a palette and brush yourself, and sketch out a scene that — in the tradition of the Impressionists — you’d title “Luncheon at the Pola Museum” or “Beech Trees in the Hills of Hakone.” If Monet had been alive today, he himself might even have pulled up his truck on the way home and sketched “Cars on the Tomei Expressway in Winter.”
Through March 23; ¥1,800; call (0460) 84-2111 or www.polamuseum.or.jp