© Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Takashi Murakami’s massive eighty-two-foot-long painting, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, reflects on the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. Murakami discovered that roughly 150 years earlier, after the great Ansei Edo earthquake of 1855, artist Kano Kazunobu had created a large grouping of monumental scrolls conjuring the five hundred arhats, the traditional stewards of Buddha’s teaching. Murakami, through the post–World War II lens of Japan’s pervasive pop culture, again revived the arhats. In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow portrays a cartoonish, spiritual landscape, awash in an enormous tsunami of churning water. The work is a specific reference to a Japanese history of natural disasters and an attempt to place suffering into a visual language.