Image: Ambiguous Beauty/Aimai-no-bi
(Osaka, Japan, 1951 - )

Ambiguous Beauty/Aimai-no-bi , 1995

Photolithograph on paper with wood and pauwlonia wood container with screenprint
11 1/2 in. x 19 in. x 1 in. (29.21 cm x 48.26 cm x 2.54 cm)
Gift of Mitchell D. Kahan
Morimura calls attention to gendered cultural identities through recreations of iconic images from art history and popular culture in which he substitutes himself as the main subject. In 'Ambiguous Beauty,' Morimura mimics the American icon Marilyn Monroe in her first 'Playboy' pin-up. He dons a wig, heavy makeup and fake breasts to play the part. The obvious falseness of these prosthetics, the masculinity of his body and his Japanese facial features disrupt the charade. Morimura’s subversive self-portraits comment on Japan’s absorption of western culture in the decades following World War II. In performing female subjects with his own body, he also references post-war western perceptions of pacifist Japan as an emasculated country. His chosen format for 'Ambiguous Beauty'—a Japanese fan—amplifies these tensions.

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