From the L.A. Times writeup on the Murakami show at MOCA:
Murakami has spoken about the kudzu-like proliferation of ultra-cute imagery in Japanese culture — Hello Kitty, say — as a colossal index of repressed confidence in the wake of a militaristic nation’s humiliating battlefield defeat 62 years ago. Even death now seems infantilized, as in his remarkable paintings of a skeleton whose mushroom-cloud shape is horribly adorable.
The conceptual debt to Andy Warhol, here and everywhere in the show, is obvious. But the squeamishness induced by Murakami’s distinctive brand of Pop Art is entirely different.
And I emphasize brand. Murakami is the first major artist, Eastern or Western, to make our pervasive culture of branding a primary subject, rather than simply exploiting it.
Bonus Update: Eric Nakamura (Giant Robot) blogs about the gala and the goodie-merch.