Tufted Monsters, Sacred Cute, Animated Anim(e)ism

There hasn't been a halloween themed post proper on the 'duck yet, but a series of random events (and the annual invite to GP's house o' horrors) have conspired to make it so.    I was up at Tufts for a panel discussion called Framed: Contemporary Art and the Museum last week and picked up a card that reminded me of a great show on view in the University Art Gallery, Sacred Monsters: Everyday Animism in Contemporary Japanese Art and Anime, which is on view through November 22.  You should go.  It's spooky and entertaining.

Noah's Ark, 2008, by Tokyo Kamen, on view at Tufts University Art Gallery

The show includes work by eight artists - Chiho Aoshima, Nobuhiro Ishihara, Kenjiro Kitade, Mahomi Kunikata, Tomokazu Matsuyama, Mr., Oscar Oiwa and TOKYO KAMEN - and screenings of eight films, both animated and live action: Akira, Beautiful Dreamer, Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence, My Neighbor Totoro, Paprika, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and The Grudge.  As the catalog says:

This exhibition examines representations of mythical spirits, gods, monsters, and other mutant, sentient beings in contemporary Japanese art and film as expressions of animist belief through the work of eight emerging and mid-career artists. The theme is also explored through a complementary program of continuous anime screenings presented in the Gallery.

Many contemporary Japanese visual artists and animators incorporate animist beliefs in their work as cultural rather than religious expression. A shared iconography connects the artists and anime included in this exhibition, ranging from kami (gods) to yokai (monsters), sentient and non-sentient beings with supernatural powers, and hybrid mythical creatures. These traditionally Japanese representations - visible, tangible, and ubiquitous - actively dissolve boundaries between the living and the dead, the human and non-human realms.

Interestingly, especially in light of the Framed discussion, there is an additional exhibit, in a separate but attached gallery, called Ghost Stories, featuring scary woodblock prints by Yoshitoshi and other ukiyo-e masters of the 19th Century.  With titles such as Omori Notices a Demon, Yoshihara's Ghost Attacks, Oiwa and the Sash Serpent, and Greedy Old Woman Chooses the Heavy Box, this work is clearly ancestral or inspirational to many of the nearby Sacred Monsters.  When you're recovered from Halloween and need a fresh scare, see both shows.

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