In MADSAKI's spray-painted works drawn from well-known historical paintings, cinema, and popular culture, figures are finished with smiley faces. Allowing the paint to drip before drying, MADSAKI creates ambiguous expressions that appear to be crying and smiling at the same time and may be variously interpreted as serious, melancholy, empty, or humorous.Read More
Born in Osaka, MADSAKI moved to the United States with his family at the age of six. Upon graduating from New York's Parsons School of Design in 1996, he went through a period in which he did not make art. He did eventually return to art, and spray paint became his primary medium, in part inspired by the memories of graffiti he saw as a child in 1980s New York. MADSAKI began to develop his iconic 'Wannabe' series: spray-painted replicas of classical and modern masterpieces with smiley faces.
MADASKI came to prominence when the 'Wannabe' series was exhibited in 2015 at CLEAR GALLERY TOKYO. Exhibited works included his reinterpretations of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503), Henri Matisse's Dance (1910), and Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937). In a video for his 2018 exhibition French Fries with Mayo at Perrotin Paris, MADSAKI said that the series began with his interest in revisiting the old masters, paying homage while updating their works in his own fashion.
MADSAKI maintains a close relationship with Tokyo's Kaikai Kiki Gallery, founded by Takashi Murakami. The two artists met through Instagram and MADSAKI held his first solo exhibition with the gallery, entitled HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW, in 2017. Revolving around depictions of his wife's daily routine, MADSAKI made a shift from his appropriations of historical paintings to records of personal sentiments and intimacy from his life.
The vast range of MADSAKI's references extends to popular iconography and subcultures. His 'The Character' series (2017), for example, is inspired by well-known cartoons. The series includes a 13-metre-wide painting representing MADSAKI's favourite cartoon characters, including Bart Simpson and Big Bird, exhibited at the major solo presentation Combination Platter, at Central Embassy, Bangkok (2018). 1984—the artist's solo show at Kaikai Kiki Gallery in 2020—featured sculptures and paintings that directly quote Mattel's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Kaleidoscopes: Contemporary Portraiture, Perrotin, Hong Kong (2020); Bubblewrap, Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (2018); Mad Love, Museum of Arts and Design, Singapore (2015); Tokyo Street, Ikkan Art International, Singapore (2013); What Happened to Peace, Parco Museum, Tokyo (2005).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021