• Ideas
  • Jul 09, 2019

Coloring Outside the Lines: Interview with MADSAKI

Portrait of MADSAKI in front of his _Liberty Leading the People II (inspired by Eug

MADSAKI identifies as a third culture kid. Born in Osaka in 1974, raised in New Jersey, and now based in Tokyo, the artist draws on his experiences of living between multiple cultures to create his vibrant, spray-painted works, which interweave pop iconography and personal memories. However, he had begun his artistic career much differently. When he graduated from New York’s Parsons School of Design in 1996, he was making geometric paintings—compositions that left him uninspired and creatively stunted. It was years later, when he was forced to return to Japan from the United States, that he moved away from using brushes and picked up paint cannisters, developing spray-painted, text-based works in response to the language barrier that he was confronted with in his new surroundings. His childhood recollections of New York in the 1980s—specifically of the city’s graffiti and his excursions to art museums—also propelled his work, most notably the series “Wannabe” (2015– ). With “Wannabe,” MADSAKI reinterprets and hybridizes fine art pieces with his noisy graffiti aesthetic. He simultaneously acknowledges the legacies of these works and the genius of their renowned authors, while interrogating the very parameters that deem these works masterpieces. Amid preparations for his first solo show in Hong Kong, to be presented by Perrotin, MADSAKI sat down with AAP to discuss growing up as a third culture kid, inhabiting the minds of Old Masters, his relationship with graffiti, and his inspirations for the coming show.