How does one even begin to describe the artistry of Takashi Murakami? Masterful, ebullient, scintillating, sarcastic, historical, technical, profound … words like these don’t seem to do him justice. Lucky for us several of his vast canvases are now on view at the new Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of absorbing Murakami’s world, go now. And make sure to give yourself plenty of time. His paintings are so dense with imagery relating to spirituality, pop and drug culture, and social commentary, you could spend five minutes looking at a tiny corner!
I dare you not be mesmerized by his 82-foot long, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow. It’s a psychedelic head trip involving Hokusai-like wave patterns, earthquakes, historical figures, and comical crazed animals.
One of my faves is the Hustle’n’Punch By Kaikai And Kiki. Don’t be fooled by its riot of pinky tones and smiley flower faces. Look closer and you’ll see mouths open, revealing gnashing fangs. This is quintessential Murakami social critique. Beneath the bright and sunny lurks the grotesque.
Lastly, I leave you with Of Chinese Lions, Peonies, Skulls, And Fountains. How can you resist cuddly puddles of cats atop a cascade of skulls? I know I can’t.
Many moons ago I worked at a gallery in Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. My first day on the job I vividly remember my boss showing me the drawings of a young, Spanish artist, Teo González. A few pieces were to be included in a group show we were mounting. They were small drawings of grid patterns filled in with tiny drops of ink. His work had this intriguing combination of minimalist precision and amorphousness. I was so taken with the specificity of the technique I just had to meet this person and find out more about his process. So I did, and we instantly became friends. Soon after that show he made the bold move to New York City. No surprise to any of us who were aware of his passion and dedication to create art, his career took off. Through the years, it’s been a pleasure to watch Teo’s vision and artistry evolve. He’s had solo exhibitions in NYC, San Francisco, Korea and Spain, to name a few.
So if you’re in the area, go see his stunning solo exhibition on view at the Margaret Thatcher Projects in NYC until June 4th, 2016. His new drip paintings vibrate with color and the patterns breath with life. Here’s a glimpse of the gallery opening and a taste of Teo’s work:
If you’re looking for ways to expand your creativity then you must check out these two books about the creative process. inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity by Stanford professor Tina Seelig and The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp. These books are the backbone of the class I’m teaching this spring about the subject. And they are great! Both offer valuable insights into developing your creativity. I’ll give you a hint: reframing how you see the world inspires you to form new ideas. Oh, and that other thing. Hard work!
Tharp offers ways to build habitual routines into your life; reflective exercises to explore your passions and help you come to grips with pesky, inhibiting fears; and tools to organize your creative juices so they’re available as needed. She also posits that there are no creative geniuses. She uses Mozart as an example. While he was naturally inclined toward music at a young age, his father nurtured his abilities with a comprehensive education that included philosophy as well as music. By the time Mozart was in his twenties, he already had dozens of symphonies under his frock coat. According to Tharp, his musical gifts weren’t divine, which is how creative geniuses are often perceived. They have extreme concentration, focus and determination to get things right, however they define that for themselves.
You can say the same about Prince, a modern-day Mozart. He’s been on my mind because of his recent death. His musical precociousness was evident, and arguably, his obsessive focus, enabled him to create masterful music. Maybe that all consuming passion to relentlessly create is where the divide between the Mozarts and Princes of the world and us mere mortals really lies.
As a professional writer, who has to be creative on demand, I can attest that creativity involves so much more than waiting for the muse to strike. It requires opening up my mental faucet so that all ideas—the good, the bad and the meh—can be explored. I know that putting in the effort to refine, rewrite and give shape to a project will result in something I can be proud of. I believe this effort, discipline, work, or whatever you wish to call it, allows one’s creativity to bloom into its fullest expression.
Check out Tina Seelig’s fascinating model for building your creativity and see if it resonates with you.