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Japanese Modern Art Wiki

Page history last edited by Jonathon Marchesoni 13 years, 1 month ago

Japanese Modern Art


by Jonathon Marchesoni


The Gutai Group



The Gutai group, formed in 1954, is made up of Japanese avant garde artists. The word "gutai" is translated as "concrete," so named in an effort to contrast with "abstract" art. The main founder was Jiro Yoshihara, and other important members are Shozo Shimamoto, Atsuko Tanaka, Saburo Murakami, Kazuo Shiraga, and Akira Kanayama. The Gutai group wrote a manifesto in 1956, credited to Jiro Yoshihara, which stated its principles. The basic gist of the manifesto seems to be that contemporary art should be more wabi-sabi:


Yet what is interesting in this respect is the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries. This is described as the beauty of decay, but is it not perhaps that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics? The fact that the ruins receive us warmly and kindly after all, and that they attract us with their cracks and flaking surfaces, could this not really be a sign of the material taking revenge, having recaptured its original life?


Yoshihara states in the manifesto that the purpose of the Gutai group is to focus on bringing ";life"; to the material or medium, and experimenting with new ways of creating and experiencing art.


The Gutai group was influenced by Georges Mathieu, Michel Tapie, and Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists. It then went on to influence the Fluxus movement (which included Yoko Ono) as well as later Japanese Modern Art.


Jiro Yoshihara


Shozo Shimamoto



Shozo Shimamoto is breaking jars of paint against a rock in the video, which is an example of what we would call performance art. The Gutai group's philosophy of art being immediate and concrete are expressed in such a performance, in which the viewer is an important part of the equation. The viewer sees the material being experimented with, and sees it come to life with the artist's creativity. The transience of this type of art is one element of wabi-sabi that is present.




Kazuo Shiraga


Shiraga created this and other images by moving a lump of paint with his feet, as described in the Gutai manifesto:

Kazuo Shiraga placed a lump of paint on a huge piece of paper, and started to spread it around violently with his feet. For about the last two years art journalists have called this unprecedented method ";the Art of committing the whole self with the body."; Kazuo Shiraga had no intention at all of making this strange method known to the public. He had merely found the method which enabled him to confront and unite the material he had chosen with his own spiritual dynamics. In doing so he achieved an extremely convincing result.


He also participated in "performance paintings," including this one, "Challenging Mud."


Atsuko Tanaka

This is an exhibition of Tanaka's "Electric Dress." She wore this and other costumes in 1957 in the performance "Stage Clothes." Here is a short bio of Atsuko Tanaka.


Saburo Murakami

"Passage" is a good example of modern Japanese Art that would be considered performance art. At the time performance art was not considered a category of art, so this work was ahead of its time. It influenced the Fluxus and Happenings movements, both of which developed the concept of performance art.


The Fluxus Movement


Although Fluxus originated in America with John Cage and George Maciunas, it has many Japanese members and is a global movement. Two notable Japanese Fluxus members are Yasunao Tone and Yoko Ono.


Yasunao Tone


This work, "495,63,"  is an interesting combination of noise music and avant garde video art.


Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono is famous in America/Europe as the widow of John Lennon, but she is famous as an artist and musician as well. Although not technically part of the Fluxus movement, nevertheless she was influenced by it and the Gutai group with her performance art. The following one makes a feminist statement while upholding the values of the Gutai group as well in being a transitory event of artistic expression.


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