Yoshitomo Nara, Untitled (Annika Ström invite), ca. 1998, felt-tip pen on printed paper, 6 x 4 1/2".

Yoshitomo Nara

THE LAST TIME Yoshitomo Nara’s cute ’n’ angry girls appeared in New York in a big way, they were under the umbrella of “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture,” Takashi Murakami’s provocative show at the Japan Society in 2005. There Nara’s little rebels were representatives—one example among many—of “superflat” art. Now that Nara has an exhibition all his own, “Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool,” at the Asia Society (until January 2), we can ask: Does he really fit the superflat mold?

In the “Little Boy” catalogue, Murakami explained how Japan came to be a superflat nation, entranced with flat, smooth surfaces and blind to the boundaries between high and low art: After Japan’s World War II defeat—its literal flattening by two American atomic bombs—the nation, though outwardly pacific, was seething. Japan became like a powerless little boy, suppressing its rage

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