Critics’ Picks

What's Not to Like?, 2007, glazed ceramic, 23 5/8 x 23 5/8 x 35 1/2“ (pot), 15 3/4 x 15 3/4 x 24 3/8” (lid).

What's Not to Like?, 2007, glazed ceramic, 23 5/8 x 23 5/8 x 35 1/2“ (pot), 15 3/4 x 15 3/4 x 24 3/8” (lid).


Grayson Perry

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
1-2-1, Hirosaka, Kanazawa City
April 28–August 31, 2007

Far from lost in translation, Grayson Perry’s Japanese debut articulates strong Nipponese sensibilities embedded within his signature social satire, “alternative” biting wit, and unabashed honesty. This exhibition includes provocative pots whose imagery, drawn from Perry’s dark and colorful psyche, blend motifs from disparate Japanese historical eras and aesthetic traditions encountered during his stays here as an artist in residence. Cute and perverse, these works articulate much of what lurks beneath Japan’s contradictory social impulses.

What’s Not to Like?, 2007, is a seminal, seemingly site-specific vase that took Perry approximately seven months to complete and is installed in the museum’s glass-walled central gallery. Drawings of consumer goods and logos are superimposed over images of models and soccer players. Perry’s hero (and childhood teddy bear), Alan Measles, presides over the scene with a raised beer bottle and a shopping bag. It is a poignant reflection of Japan’s consumer-object-obsessed culture. Elsewhere, spiritual themes arise with replicas of the small shrines Perry has seen in Japan during his visits.

Perry’s intricate etchings, like Map of an Englishman, 2004, are also on view—they're cerebral cacophony meticulously rendered. One traverses the mountains, valleys, streams, and oceans of Perry’s psyche with a laugh undercut by a sobering sense of complicity. More than just the Englishman's, the wishes, delusions, dreams, and psychoses ad infinitum are those of every nationality. The map is a paradoxical portrait of humankind and a symbolic guide to this exhibition—Perry’s twenty-first-century archaeological excavation.