Asian Art News
By Lucy Birmingham
"Makoto Aida at Mizuma Art Gallery"
Called Japan's "genius-baddest-bad-boy artist," Makoto Aida leaves little unturned in exposing the rot and putrid underbelly of Japanese society. In a country where cute and polite dominate, Aida's work could be considered refreshing. He is well known in Japan as a talented, versatile and confrontational artist, an advantage in this fickle, consumer-obsessed culture. The works in this show reflect this: an abstract oil painting titled "Pre-Climacteric Love," used as the title of the show, an installation titled "My Peace Pole," message panels titled "Translator," a large ejaculating manga drawing on the ceiling, a DVD of Aida in a rice ball head mask, a patterned mono-graphic work using ink jet paper and acrylics
But Aida is probably best known for his skillful, nihonga-style painted images of young, prepubescent girls in various provocative and bizarre contortions (discussed on bondage and fetish websites.) In this show, his obsession with young and pretty wide-eyed girls comes to force in the form of two "bonsai" sculptures. Doll heads, with sparkly big eyes jut out, like the flowers of hell, from the twisted branch-like bodies of two mini-trees. It is interesting that Aida has used the bonsai form to reflect his passion for girls and their contorted shapes. Similar in concept to his "Dog" series — paintings of pretty young girls, crawling on amputated legs and arms, held by a dog collar and chain. The bonsai in Japan is often a symbol of the older generation, their strength and conformity to tradition. Aida's work often reflects cultural trends. Is there a message or is this simply another of his skillful unconventional renderings? Artists like Hiroshi Masuyama famous for his drawings of bonsai and alluring high school girls and Numata Genqui known as "The Bonsai Kid" have posed different questions about the use and meaning of bonsai. But like Genqui, who is now virtually unknown, Aida is, as has been written, "the master of everything, but of nothing in particular."
Truly this artist knows how to bite the hand that feeds him and that hurts-so-good feeling, both shocking and irrepressible has attracted national attention. But the attention-getting shock effect wears thin unless the message moves beyond that middle-finger "f…you" thrust. A consistent medium and/or message may not necessarily be Aida's coffin nail. With his consistent talent, it could endear a stronger and lasting following abroad. It is clear that Aida is now one of the most important artists of his generation in Japan, with greater international recognition well deserved.