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BIOGRAPHY

Takashi Murakami's neo-Pop protege, Mr., is a Japanese artist. His artwork includes paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations that explore and reference the Japanese otaku subculture, which is obsessed with manga and anime and idolizes fictional female characters.

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Mr., who was born in Cupa, Japan, in 1969, spent his formative years surrounded by manga and anime. He received his degree in fine arts from Tokyo's Sokei Art School in 1996. The teenage artist was discovered by Takashi Murakami the year before. Mr. was hired by Murakami as a studio assistant, and through his Kaikai Kiki art studio, mentored him.

Mr. became well-known in the early 2000s for his illustrations of vivid, wide-eyed female characters that were influenced by anime and manga. These kind of characters, who have consistently appeared in Mr.'s work, are typical of the otaku subculture, which first emerged in Japan in the 1970s and is typically comprised of young, reclusive male comic geeks. However, otaku culture's appeal and target audience have greatly expanded in recent years.

Mr., who hails from a similar background, describes himself as both an otaku artist and an investigator. He investigates ideas and themes like "kawaii," which is Japanese for "cute," and "lolicom," which comes from the term "European Lolita Complex" and describes how otaku are drawn to prepubescent girls, particularly those who appear in anime and manga.

Sassy (2014) and Helloooo There! (2008), two of Mr.'s earlier lolicom-focused works, provide the audience with feminine figures sporting miniskirts, T-shirts, jeans, and round faces with wide eyes and colorful hair. These characters are self-contained and strong, vacillating between innocence and hyper-sexualization; in some of his paintings, he depicts these kawaii girls as soldiers or in wheelchairs.

Mr. displayed a sizable, immersive installation of trash and commonplace items from Japanese living in his exhibitions with Lehmann Maupin in 2012 and at the Seattle Art Museum in 2015, serving as a reminder of the rubbish that covered Tohoku in the wake of the 2011 disaster. The sculpture enabled viewers to physically engage with it, giving them a glimpse into Japan's psychological state while keeping them outside of it. Since then, Mr. has incorporated this idea into his artwork by stomping, tearing, and setting fire to his canvases to give them a rough, textured appearance that frequently contrasts with the purity of the wide-eyed cartoon characters he paints on top.

Mr. has not only showcased solo exhibitions in major cities around the world, but also has collaborated with the Supreme clothing brand and exhibited with many other great Japanese artists like Rei Sato, Chiho Aoshuma, and Aya Takano. His works can be found in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Daegu Art Museum, South Korea, among others.

Painting, sculpture, installation, and video are all included in Mr.'s neo-pop aesthetics. He employs manga and anime, which are associated with the superflat movement, to depict his own desires. He is more precisely a self-described otaku artist, however he frequently pulls his themes and motifs from the otaku community. Young characters primarily occupy his cartoonish fantasies, which are supposed to arouse feelings of moe (a Japanese notion relating to the adoration of fictional figures).

Beyond the sweet, happy smiles, Mr.'s work also reflects larger themes of loneliness, fear, grief, and social anxiety, which the artist uses to overcome personal trauma. The artist has enabled his once all-smiles creatures to display more nuanced negative emotions visibly since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

But there has always been a sense of emptiness, backsliding, and detachment from reality in Mr.'s works. Similar to the cultural phenomenon they are inspired by, the vivid, colorful images serve as an escape for the artist. "I don't really interact with the brighter side of life", Mr. said to Tatler Hong Kong, "But precisely because of this, imagined scenes of comfort and reassurance evolve inside of me, becoming my artistic vision".

Ever since the 2011 nuclear disaster, Mr. began exploring themes of destruction through a gritty and abstract painting manner reminiscent of his early Arte Povera-inspired work, while maintaining the charming characters, vibrant colors, and clean finishes that are distinctive of his early work.

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