Performance Collective – Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai

gutai group

Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai

Japanese Artist- Group – Performance Art, Live Art, Durational Art, Interactive environments, visual art

Under the guidance of painter and food oils millionaire Jiro Yoshihara, the Art Association of Gutai (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) was founded in 1954, in a war-shaken Japan that was looking to recuperate its culture. Looking to break away from the chains of mainstream and traditional art styles in pursuit of true originality spreading internationally, the group started its journey from their own name: by combining the words “gu”, meaning “tool”, and “tai” meaning “body”. It was perfect – it clearly reflected this twenty-artist collective’s dedicated relationship between body and matter, where one’s body was used as a medium and matter represented an artistic material. The Gutai group strongly leaned on the freedom of expression, creating art like it’s never been done before, connecting the whole world within a sole “collective spirit of individuality” where the principles of a community consciousness were crucial, yet encouraged and gave way to individual paths. To inspire this was, in fact, the motto of Jiro Yoshihara – “Never imitate others: make something that has never existed before.” (widewalls)

In their early public exhibitions in 1955 and 1956 Gutai artists created a series of striking works anticipating later happenings and performance and conceptual art. Shiraga’s Challenge to the Mud 1955, in which the artist rolled half naked in a pile of mud, remains the most celebrated event associated with the group. Also in 1955 Murakami created his reportedly stunning performance Laceration of Paper, in which he ran through a paper screen. At the second Gutai show in 1956, Shiraga used his feet to paint a large canvas sprawled across the floor. From about 1950 Shimamoto had been making paintings from layers of newspaper pasted together, painted and then pierced with holes, anticipating the pierced work of Lucio Fontana. In 1954 Murakami had made a series of paintings by throwing a ball soaked in ink at paper. In 1956 Shimamoto went on to make works called Throws of Colour by smashing glass jars filled with pigment onto canvases laid out on the floor. (De Sarthe)

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