© Chihiro Mori
Watercolor, marker, pencil and acrylic on paper mounted on boardexpand_more
The Robert C. Winton Fundexpand_more 2017.7
Chihiro Mori takes the chaotic fragments of urban life to create a jumble of language and visual references. What at first glance appears to be childish doodling reveals itself to be a critique of the rules and systems of mainstream society. Picture of Money (Sanjusangendo) features a complex tapestry of guilloche patterns (intricate ornamentation resembling interlacing ribbons) taken from Japanese paper currency as its background. On top of this colorful web the artist has painted a sea of smiley faces that represent the religious icons housed in the Sanjūsangendō—a circa 1200s Buddhist temple in Kyoto containing one thousand life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon (a Buddhist deity that embodies compassion). Mori playfully visualizes a clash of opposing forces—sacred and profane, order and chaos, alienation and belonging—to express her doubt and frustration with cultural pressures to conform.
Mia’s collection of contemporary Japanese art is largely defined by the work of neo-Pop artists such as Yoshitomo Nara, who were born after Japan’s defeat in World War II and grew up during Japan’s postwar economic boom. Chihiro Mori represents a generation of artists that follows after neo-Pop. Labeled the “micro-Pop” generation, they came of age during Japan’s bubble economy only to experience the harsh realities of Japan’s economic collapse as young adults.
Mori’s work, and that of her contemporaries, is grounded in the complexities of daily life and represents a shift from the fanciful imagery of the neo-Pop generation. In addition, Picture of Money (Sanjusangendo) provides a link to Mia’s historical Japanese collection in its reference to the important 13th-century Buddhist temple Sanjūsangendō in Kyoto.