Dia de los Muertos skulls of Mario, Ultraman, etc.

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My pal Jonathan Koshi continues his reimaginings of calaveras, the decorated skulls associated with the Dia de los Muertos. This new letterpress series includes the likes of Mario, Ultraman, Domo, and other Japanese icons from Koshi's childhood. Once again, Koshi is selling these in signed/numbered editions of 50 prints per design. There is also an auction for "blind" (uninked, but still pressed) prints with the proceeds going to the earthquake relief effort in Japan. Get Your Sugar Too


  1. I have mixed feelings about Koshi’s art. On one hand, the technique & execution are compelling. No argument that Koshi is an extraordinary artist. I like the images, outside of their cultural context. But then I get the “white men playing didgeridoos” feeling in my gut. You know, the one you get when experiencing cross-cultural art, “borrowed” in order to make a profit. Since these are “reimaginings,” I suppose I’m being too prickly. The underlying question, however, is just how far artistic license goes. And that is an individual determination. I’m personally not buying art like the calaveras series unless the artist has a name like Hernandez.

    1. So Japanese artists should stick with ukiyo-e, Africans with tribal masks and Europeans with naked Greek gods and reclining chunky ladies? Forever??

      I see what you’re saying, but I do wonder: How do you make the distinction between an artist who is earnestly inspired by cultural elements other that the ones his genetic lineage ‘allows’ or some greedy asshole raping other peoples’ ideas for profit? You must keep in mind that artists also have to eat and pay their bills, and it is not a moral flaw for them to do so. Why would it be more unethical for a visual artist to make money off a creation inspired by a Mexican celebration than for an architect inspired by a foreign motif, or a chef experimenting with exotic spices? The world is bigger now. As long as an inspiration or tribute is both obvious and respectful, why should we refrain from being inspired and playful with every flavour the world has to offer?

      Besides, Dia de los Muertos has spread beyond Mexico to many communities in America, including the aforementioned artist’s neighbourhood. So why shouldn’t he be inspired by and profiting form his own community’s festivities?

  2. The topic of cultural appropriation is a really tricky one. It’s fun to play “blendo” with tropes such as Japanese pop culture and Mexican tradition and see what happens as a result. OTOH, it seems like anything is fair game as long as it isn’t Whitey that’s doing it. As a patriotic artist in America, I would like to use symbolism that is purely of American culture, but it’s hard to pin down exactly what that would be, because we are a mix of so many cultures and each deserves respect in and of itself.

    I love these calaveras, and I love Dia de los Muertos more than I like Halloween. Is it OK for me to observe the holiday, even though I’m an English/Polish/Latvian atheist?

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