February 27, 2014 @ KiangaEllisProjects
Kianga Ellis Projects is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in the United States for Sebastian Masuda, Japan’s preeminent ambassador for the cultural phenomenon of Harajuku kawaii. Colorful Rebellion – Seventh Nightmare is an all-over immersive environmental experience composed of colorful toys, ribbon, girl’s accessories, fake fur and an empty bed that expresses Masuda’s interpretation of the Seven Deadly Sins.
The artist, already well-known as founder of the iconic Harajuku boutique 6%DOKIDOKI, is the art director for Japanese pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and other contemporary cultural phenomena in Japan.
At Kianga Ellis Projects, Masuda uses a contemporary art context to communicate the deeper essence of the Harajuku culture he helped make famous around the world. In creating a world beyond fashion, popular culture and the imagery of the iconic Harajuku girl, the artist uses unconventional materials and colorful objects associated with child’s play to reveal the complexity, darkness and obsessions composing his inner world.
Colorful Rebellion – Seventh Nightmare recalls signature works by American artist Mike Kelley such as his Memory Ware Flats series consisting of frames filled with shimmering trinkets, buttons, gumball machine toys and colorful beads, which Kelley referred to as “paintings” and his 1987 work More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid composed of stuffed fabric toys and afghans on canvas with dried corn. In the manner of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, known for her use of dense patterns, mirrors and intense environments, Masuda’s installation is a self-portrait that presents at once the unique identity of a place where people express themselves freely without the judgement of others and also a universal call to empowerment that has been spread around the world thanks to the infrastructure of the Internet.
During Armory Arts Week, from March 6 – 9, 2014, a young woman representing the artist’s female alter-ego will inhabit the gallery during open hours (including special open hours on Sunday, March 9th). Her presence as performance is the last of Masuda’s seven deadly sins to be revealed within the installation, serving to tie the various components together.
“Whatever my output, the context for my productions remains the ‘Harajuku kawaii culture.’ Although recently, what people have focused on has been the easily understandable originality and flamboyance of its exterior, the first peculiarity of the town of Harajuku has always been the fact that it is a place in which people can express themselves freely without any interference from others. There is also a certain individual earnestness that everybody has in the background. I think that this is the reason why it was able to birth such an original culture, not found anywhere else in the world. In this exhibition, I will be showcasing works that will show the still-expanding Harajuku kawaii culture not from the ‘outside,’ as other works have done until now, but rather from the ‘inside…’ I will create a ‘Colorful Rebellion,’ as a kind of ‘self-portrait’ that draws the minimum amount of attention to me. Its theme is the self, conscious of being at the crossroads of the present, past, and future.”
~ Sebastian Masuda (English translation by Tokyo Fashion)
Sebastian Masuda (b. 1970, Chiba, Japan) is an artist and director of the Sensational Kawaii-themed concept shop 6%DOKIDOKI. He was involved in the world of contemporary art in the late 1980s, leading an avant-garde performance group. In 1995, Masuda opened 6%DOKIDOKI as a field of artistic expression in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, Japan.
His vision spread not only within the shop, but also into the larger culture, first in Japan and then world-wide perhaps most notably as embraced by American Pop star Gwen Stefani. He has created campaigns and kawaii visuals for some of Japan’s top brands, designed sets for film and theater, and helped to launch the career of kawaii superstar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Kyary’s videos, with art direction and set design by Masuda, have received over 200 million views on YouTube.
As a pioneer of “kawaii culture,” Masuda speaks internationally at museums, conferences and other events proposing Japanese pop culture to the rest of the world with the message: Always hold a revolution in your own heart.
Kianga Ellis Projects features an ongoing program of solo presentations by emerging artists and mid-career international artists at the vanguard of contemporary art practice. Artists are invited to use the 300 sq foot project room in Chelsea NYC as an open platform from which to experiment and present their interests in two or more of the following within a unified context: the digital realm and Internet culture, social situations and concepts, traditional art media, performance and moving image.