A Visual Essay on Gutai at 32 East 69th Street
September 12 – October 27, 2012

Opening Reception: September 12, 6-8PM

After World War II, a devastated Japan processed the impact of the atomic bomb and faced a cultural void. It was in this atmosphere of existential alienation that the Gutai Art Association (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) – a group of about twenty young artists, rallying around the charismatic painter Jiro Yoshihara – emerged in the mid-1950s to challenge convention. Although keenly aware of Japan’s artistic traditions, the Gutai artists attempted to distance themselves from the sense of defeat and impotence that pervaded their country, and to overcome the past completely with “art that has never existed before”. They burst out of the expected confines of painting with daring works that demonstrated a freewheeling relationship between art, body, space and time. Dismissed by Japanese critics as spectacle makers, the Gutai artists nevertheless produced a profound legacy of aesthetic experimentation, influencing Western critics and anticipating Abstract Expressionism, Arte Povera, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art.

Beginning September 12, 2012, Hauser & Wirth New York will present A Visual Essay on Gutai at 32 East 69th Street, a landmark historical exhibition that explores this legacy through masterworks by twelve Gutai members: Norio Imai, Akira Kanayama, Takesada Matsutani, Sadamasa Motonaga, Shuji Mukai, Saburo Murakami, Shozo Shimamoto, Kazuo Shiraga, Yasuo Sumi, Atsuko Tanaka, Tsuruko Yamazaki, and Jiro Yoshihara. A Visual Essay on Gutai traces efforts by these artists to resolve the inherent contradictions between traditions of painting – the making of images on a flat, framed plane – and the core tenets of a movement that called for experimentation, individuality, unexpected materials, and, perhaps above all, physical action and psychological freedom. On view at Hauser & Wirth New York will be more than 30 works spanning twenty years, all of them exciting responses to the constraints of painting and the limits of time itself.


Image Credit:
Yasuo Sumi
Work, 1962
Steel mesh, cotton, mixed media
150.5 x 100 cm
Photo: Keizo Kobashi