John Lurie Is Here

Musician, actor and painter John Lurie’s works are exhibited at Watari-um, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art.

poster for John Lurie

John Lurie "You Are Here"

at Watari-um, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art
in the Omotesando, Aoyama area
This event has ended - (2010-01-30 - 2010-05-16)

In Reviews by Alicia Tan 2010-04-06

When meeting John Lurie’s art for the first time in Aoyama’s Watari-um, you can’t help but quickly bow their head in front of the trio of paintings greeting you as you exit the elevator. It’s most probably not a bow of reverence, but one that attempts to hide their initial confusion at Lurie’s latest artistic endeavor.

An artist in his own right, Lurie is no stranger to bearing his soul to an audience. Previously a musician with his band, the Lounge Lizards, Lurie is perhaps most well known for his acting roles in Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise, and Fishing with John. Following a tragic illness that left him unable to leave his home, let alone work on his music, Lurie turned to his paintings as his way of saying “I am Here”.

John Lurie, 'This Painting Stands For Goodness' (2007)

Over a hundred paintings are showcased on the second, third and fourth floors of Watari-um, as part of the exhibition “You Are Here”. His work is often characterized by an almost lurid combination of colors, and collection of peculiar characters ranging from disembodied dog heads to equally disturbing renditions of ‘people’. Watari-um describes his work as ‘intense and idiosyncratic’, and it’s hard to disagree. It’s easy to mistake his paintings as simplistic swipes of paint on canvas, not unlike kindergarten kids going at it in art class. Certainly, it may be hard for most people to accept Lurie’s exceptionally individualistic style of painting as art. There is an incredible amount of raw emotion invested in each piece, as Lurie seems to attack the world that has left him in a less desirable state.

John Lurie, 'This Is What I Really Call A Message' (2009)Lurie’s art is indeed shocking, but what separates him from other contemporary artists who do so merely for the sake of shock tactics, is the utterly devil may care attitude each piece exudes. With the cheekily entitled ‘Elephant’, Lurie plays with conventions derived from a society that encourages the obvious, first telling his audience what they see before them and then pulling the rug under their feet for their ‘lack of understanding’. While pieces like ‘This Is What I Really Call A Message’ (2009) and ‘In This Painting The Artist’s Soul Has Been Corroded By Assholism’ (2009) reflect Lurie’s conflicted state of mind, it is in his calmer landscapes that he shines. His skill is apparent in the way he creates realistic renditions of fields and forests (‘Anchor is Stuck, I Cannot Go Anywhere, Time for A Sandwich’ [2009]), yet he often destroys the picturesque with his ghoulish characters.

It is without a doubt that Lurie loves his birds. Whether they represent his desire to be free and break from the binds of his illness, or a more general affection for the little winged creatures, they flock the canvases, flitting in and out of his paintings. Some may find this form of constancy relieving, but I personally found Lurie’s birds as alien as his depictions of humans. Faceless, lack of distinct features, disembodied: these are the familiar yet strange people that Lurie sees.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to get Lurie’s art. Any attempt to instruct your fellow observers on how to interpret his paintings would probably result in his motley crew of characters haunting your dreams too.

John Lurie, 'You Are Here' (2008)

John Lurie, “You Are Here”
2010 / 1 / 30 — 5 / 16
at Watari-um, The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art
3-7-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Phone: 03-3402-3001
From 11:00 To 19:00
Wednesdays closing at 21:00
Closed on Mondays (3/22, 5/3 open)
Adults ¥1000, Students ¥800
Limitless re-entry possible during the exhibition period

Alicia Tan

Alicia Tan. Born in the dying years of '80s disco in Singapore, Alicia finds herself strangely comfortable with the used bookstore down the street looping the BeeGees. She is currently completing her one year academic exchange in Tokyo. She also has a secret pact with seagulls to capture as many of Japan’s coastlines on camera before she leaves. » See other writings


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