Publication Date

Summer 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Beverly K. Grindstaff


Aida, art, identity, Japan, Makoto, shojo

Subject Areas

Art history; Asian history; Asian studies


The work of Japanese contemporary artist Aida Makoto (1965-) has been shown internationally in major art institutions, yet there is little English-language art historical scholarship on him. While a contemporary of internationally-acclaimed Japanese artists Murakami Takashi and Nara Yoshitomo, Aida has neither gained their level of international recognition or respect. To date, Aida’s work has been consistently labeled as otaku or subcultural art, and this label fosters exotic and juvenile notions about the artist’s heavy engagement with Japanese animation, film and manga (Japanese comic book) culture. In addition to this critical devaluation, Aida’s explicit and deliberately shocking compositions seemingly serve to further disqualify him from scholarly consideration. This thesis will argue that Aida Makoto is instead a serious and socially responsible artist. Aida graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music in 1991 and came of age as an artist in the late 1980s during the start of Japan’s economic recession. Since then Aida has tirelessly created artwork embodying an ever-changing contemporary Japanese identity. Much of his twenty-three-year oeuvre explores the culturally significant social sign of the shojo or pre-pubescent Japanese schoolgirl. This thesis will discuss these compositions as Aida’s deliberate and exacting social critiques of Japan’s first and second “lost decades,” which began in 1991 and continue into the present.