ABSTRACT Infantile and cuteness in Japanese contemporary art provides a unique look at Japanese culture today. The rise of cuteness in Japanese culture emerged in the year 1970’s as new style of writing after which many teenage girls later on adopted as a writing skill. Since then many of the contemporary Japanese artists have produced unique art works portraying cuteness in Japanese contemporary art and culture. Japanese contemporary art scenes encompass abroad range of artists working in different media drawing from the traditional Japanese art called Nihonga as well as contemporary Japanese Otaku subculture.
The exhibition brings in dialogue twelve catalogue entries from unique Japanese artists in contemporary art namely; Takashi Murakami, Mr., Ryoko Suzuki, Minako Nishiyama, Aya Takano, Mika Kato, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Makoto Aida, Korehiko Hino and Yasumasa Morimura. Though, these artists present their work in different styles including the western style, they strive to a give reflection of cuteness in the contemporary Japanese art and culture. Together their works draw attention to the youth and cuteness in various aspects of Japanese culture, art and society.
In addition, the artists work strive to give a picture of Japanese culture infantilization in relation to the rising Japanese economy since 1970’s after the Second World War. The essay will analyze how the artists present various themes related to the Japanese society, culture and art as well as how they have been achieved and portrayed. Furthermore, the essay will feature other Japanese artist’s work who through their work rejects the outworn narratives of cuteness and infantilism fashionable in Western presentations of Japanese contemporary art. Using the twelve catalogue entries, the essay analyzes how various artists use their work to reflect infantile and cuteness as far as Japanese contemporary art is concerned.
In the current age characterized with how history is written and understood, the above artists work show how the contemporary art in Japan has over the year been influenced by the world contemporary art and clever use of the latest technology. INTRODUCTIONContemporary Japanese art has grown tremendously with many of the Japanese artists using both elements of traditional and modern Japanese culture to reflect complex societal changes as far as Japanese society is concerned.
Since the year 1970 the rise of kawaii, which refers to adorableness, cuteness or lovability has emerged in Japanese culture as part of a new writing style. It all began when majority of Japanese teenage girls adopted to writing laterally using mechanical pencils which apparently produced very fine line compared to traditional Japanese writing which was different in terms of thickness as well as being vertical. These girls would also write in round big characters adding little pictures to their writings for instance smiley faces, letters of the Latin alphabet, hearts and stars. It however became quite hard to read such writings and thus it was banned in majority of schools.
During the 1980s the new kawaii writing was picked up by comics and magazines where it was put onto advertising and packaging. It was later on that cute handwriting became associated with acting childish and using infantile slang words. This growing trend led to companies like Sanrio to come out with merchandise such as Hello Kitty which became an immediate success, continuing the growing obsession with cute.