10-year-old art group will give you a hug

A decade ago, an art group with about 20 members had a simple agenda in Japan — paint art, and give it a message. On a typical day, Karen Thompson spent an hour or two on the pavement in the country’s picturesque Shibuya district, leaving her work there to have time to think about what would constitute good art in that context.

She established The Collective Studio in 2006, and encouraged people to paint local and national landmarks in and around Japan. She eventually traveled to Hawaii, and discovered that the mainland was in desperate need of her kind of art.

As Thompson tells it, when she returned to the mainland in 2008, she saw several new trends of social commentary in American art: socio-political statements, environmental sentiments, the use of grotesque and tortured figures as part of a grand experiment in art commentary.

She was particularly struck by the work of Matthew Barney, who directed the cult classic film “The Prince of Egypt,” and enlisted Robert Breza, a contemporary painter, to help her form a new expression of the message she was seeing in the United States.

Together, they crafted images of, well, nearly everything, with one simple message that was clear, but always in flux: that violence does not bring any sense of peace.

Today, the artwork of The Collective Studio is online at Collectors Weekly, a site for Asian art and antiques galleries. The group, which counts other artists among its members, is not currently focusing on public art, but would love to do that as soon as possible.

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