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Little Girls with Knives and Marlboros

September 14th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

naraNot too much to say here except that if you live in New York City, you must go to the Asia Society on E. 70th and Park and see the Yoshitomo Nara exhibit, Nobody’s Fool.

Nara is a sort of Japanese Jeff Koons, a mixed-media pop phenomenon whose work–importantly for us–speaks on many level, including to kids. We had already had a children’s book he illustrated (The Lonesome Puppy), so the kids were predisposed to like what he was offering. But we took them to the show this weekend, and it was so much more than Nara’s drawings.

There were smooth (but not touchable) sculptures of outsized dogs. There were his trademark melancholic rocker girls, clutching knifes and looking defiant. There were a series of kid-sized interior space s that he had built for the show, part dollhouse, part carnival. All art.

The exhibit is also pintsized, which is beautiful if you’ve got kids until 12. This is no endless deathslog through the Met. In one hour you’ve seen it all. The kids reacted to some items; others not as much. But I’ve been looking for a way to give them a museum experience, and this is a great starter.

Bonus: a lot of his girl-portraits, which make trenchant little commentaries on the Japanese obsession with Kawaii (cuteness), look like Nara was trying to draw my daughter (who is actually quite cute to me,, btw): pale skin, prominent forehead, sorta Asian-looking but with wide eyes, carrying a shiv in her hand. All of these portraits my daughter loved.

Only awkward moment: Dalia looked up at another fairly large painting and asked the only logical question: “Why is that girl smoking?”


  1. Kidlet's Dad says:

    September 14th, 2010at 11:59 am(#)

    I’m a huge fan of Nara’s work, but I’m not sure I’d consider it child friendly. There’s something markedly creepy about the pieces.

  2. Nathan says:

    September 15th, 2010at 8:10 am(#)

    Yes, the “creepy cute” thing can be more creepy than cute, but I dunno: Dalia has all those complicated emotions, even at 4. It might do her some good to see art that speaks to them? Just a theory… and a self-serving one at that!

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