Gutai East & West
While Matsutani’s exhibitions were on view in Japan, so, too, was “Kazuo Shiraga: Painting Born Out of Fighting,” a major traveling retrospective of the works of Shiraga (1924-2008), a Gutai founding member best known for making boldly colored oil paintings with his feet while swinging from a rope suspended over canvases placed flat on the ground. Meanwhile, McCaffrey Fine Art, in New York, presented a smaller show of Shiraga’s paintings [Oct. 8, 2009-Jan. 23, 2010; see A.i.A. review, Mar. ’10]. This gallery is the authorized seller outside Japan of a limited-edition facsimile set, issued by Geika Shoin in Tokyo, of all of the Gutai Art Association’s historic publications.
In recent years attention also has been directed toward the work of Atsuko Tanaka (1932-2005), another first-generation Gutai member. Her paintings and mixed-medium works were the subject of major retrospectives in 2001 at the Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, near Osaka, and in 2004 at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery. At the time of the NYU exhibition, new and old Tanaka works were shown by the Paula Cooper Gallery, which now represents the artist’s estate [ see A.i.A., Nov. ’04].
From Oct. 22-Dec. 16, 2009, the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery at New Jersey City University presented “‘Under Each Other’s Spell’: Gutai and New York,” which examined the relationship that evolved between the Gutai group and certain New York-based artists in the 1950s and 1960s. It featured material from the collection of the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center in Springs, N.Y. (Shozo Shimamoto sent Jackson Pollock some of the Gutai group’s publications) and paintings the American artist Paul Jenkins received as gifts from Gutai members when he did a guest residency at the Gutai Pinacotheca in 1964.
Altogether, the influence of these shows has been notable. Mizuho Kato, a curator and research-section chief at the Ashiya City Museum of Art & History and a leading Gutai scholar, noted in a conversation last February, “Although no university or art college in Japan really offers a comprehensive course in Japanese modern art history, Japanese art students and young artists continue to discover Gutai on their own.”
1 “Mr. Gutai: Hoshihara Jiro,” in Hirai, Shoichi, 「具体」ってなんだ? (What’s Gutai?), Tokyo, Bijutsu Shuppan-sha, 2004, p. 23.
2 Ibid., p. 84. 3 This and all subsequent quotes of Matsutani are from a Feb. 7, 2010, interview with the author.
“Takesada Matsutani: Stream” was at the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Feb. 6-Mar. 28. A two-part exhibition of Matsutani’s work appeared at Kaneko Art Gallery, Tokyo, Feb. 15-Mar. 6 and Mar. 15-Apr. 3. Tsubaki Modern Art Gallery presented a solo show Apr. 12-26.
Edward M. Gómez, who lived in Japan in the late 1980s, is director-curator of the Raiding Foundation’s new museum in Raiding, Austria.