Mr. DOB, the whimsical, sharp-toothed character riding the wave at center, is Murakami's first signature creation inspired by the anime (animated film) and manga (comic book) characters that have achieved cult status in Japanese youth culture. His name is a contraction of the Japanese slang expression "dobojite," or "why?" and it is literally spelled out in his facial features and appendages, ensuring we recognize him in spite of his ever-changing appearance. Here Mr. DOB is borne on a tide of traditional Japanese forms. The wave, spanning the length of three panels that evoke a painted folding screen, is strongly suggestive of the well-known woodblock prints of the Japanese artist Hokusai (1760–1849). About twenty layers of paint, resembling lacquer, were built
up then scraped away to create a variegated abstract background in Nihonga style, a fusion of Japanese and Western artistic approaches that developed in the late nineteenth century. Of 727 Murakami has said, "The work is not particularly representative of anything. It is simply a combination of all the available techniques that I had at the time."
With studios and teams of assistants in Tokyo and New York producing his paintings, sculptures, environmental installations, prints, multiples, drawings, media works, and popular merchandise, Murakami has drawn comparisons with Andy Warhol. His expert melding of the popular with the time-honored has resulted in this humorous and celebratory representation of the past, present, and future of Japanese art.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 155.