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Artist Bio

Mr.

Mr. (b. 1969, Cupa, Japan, lives and works in Tokyo) born Masakatsu Iwamoto, took his pseudonym from the popular postwar baseball player, Shigeo Nagashima. Nagashima was given the name Mister Giants because of his tendency to mix English and Japanese in humorous ways. Mr.’s work similarly fuses English and Japanese languages, imagery, and pop culture references to create a dialogue between these two distinct cultures. Though he uses global references, Mr. is aligned with the Superflat movement and utilizes  otaku, the "cute" Japanese subculture that is marked by an obsession with adolescence, manga, anime, and video games. Like his fellow Superflat artists, such as Takashi Murakami, Mr. approaches the visual language of anime and manga as a means of examining Japanese culture, fusing high and low forms of contemporary expression. Prior to 2010, Mr. often incorporated into his work the hypersexualized portrayal of young women prevalent in otaku. Known in Japan as “lolicon,” a portmanteau of “Lolita Complex,” this word has come to refer to the otaku preference for graphic anime images of young girls. In the years since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown in Tohoku, Japan, however, Mr. began to move away from the cute characters, bright colors, and clean finishes characteristic of his work. He has since gravitated toward a gritty and abstract painting style reminiscent of his early work inspired by the 1960s Italian art movement Arte Povera, through which he explores themes of destruction. In his exhibition with Lehmann Maupin in 2012 and at the Seattle Art Museum in 2015, Mr. presented a large-scale,  immersive installation of garbage and everyday objects from Japanese life, standing as a remainder of the debris that blanketed Tohoku in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster. Viewers were invited to physically interact with the work, getting a glimpse into the psychological state of Japan while remaining alien to the experience. Since then, Mr. has extended this sentiment into his paintings, trampling, tearing and burning his canvases to give his surfaces a distressed, textured quality, often at odds with the innocence of the bright-eyed cartoon figures he paints on top.

 

Mr. graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, Sokei Art School in Tokyo in 1996. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Seattle Art Museum, WA (2014); and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, France (2006). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Animamix Biennale 2015-2016, Daegu Art Museum, South Korea (2015-16); Kyoto-Tokyo: From Samurais to Mangas, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco (2010); Animate, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan (2009); KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2008); RED HOT: Asian Art Today from the Chaney Family Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston (2007); and Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture, Japan Society, New York (2005). Mr.'s work is in numerous international public and private collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, and Daegu Art Museum, South Korea.