Elephants ‘r’ us–photo op 2

Sooo cute. There was everyone and his brother who were in a 2-mile radius of these plastic elephants snapping away with the cameras. Baby with baby elephant. Girl with mama elephant (papa elephant? who’s to know?) Husband patting trunk. Wife leaning in, grinning.
That’s how New Yorkers and tourists responded to Chinatsu Ban’s two pieces at the southeast corner of Central Park, a large elephant, “VWX Yellow Elephant Underwear,” and a small one “HIJ Kiddy Elephant Underwear.”

The sculptures were put up with support from the Public Art Fund as part of a show, “Little Boy,” organized by the Japan Society and curated by Takashi Murakami, based on hot hot hot Japanese art and cartoons that conflate what’s high art and popular art.

But like most of the public, I saw only the elephants, because they were on my route.


More in the “Hello, Kitty” tradition of ultra-cuteness (“kawaii” is the cute-word in Japanese), the elephants do not have the edge that Nara’s naughty but cute little girls do (left, a Nara girl, who even in a snit remains cute).

But neither are these behemoths–who are smaller, cuter, more sanitary, less smelly than real elephants–just empty plastic shapes. The larger one has dropped a load which is shaped like a Mister Softy twirl crossed with stacking rings (also no smell). And judging by the titles, the two are modeling cute cute underwear, the larger elephant’s for example patterned with self-referential elephant faces and bikini bottoms for men and women. Plus they’ve got pink pink toenails.

These elephants are beauty victims.

I could read all kinds of things in to this about complete denial of the animal in all of us and the beauty and apparel industry. But the website literature states kawaii is about a Japanese self-sanitization effort after WWII.


But watch out, America, metro-sexuals and “Nip and Tuck” are also part of a larger effort to expunge blame for being human. Hello, “kawaii,” because we are Japan and Japan is us.