Thursday, January 24, 2013

#160 Gutai Card Box

Hey all. I made a print!

It is for the upcoming Gutai Group retrospective at the Guggenheim.
My good friend Seth Caplan works there and asked me to participate
in a recreation of the Gutai Card Box (1962), in which:

     "visitors were invited to deposit a ten-yen coin, and a Gutai member inside selected and presented through a slot a premade postcard-size work by a Gutai member in return. Gutai Card Box, conceived as a comment on increasing automation in society, sought to democratize art."

What better way to democratize art than with the
democratic medium of the print.

Anyways here is the print:

シラガ 対 ヨシハラ
(Shiraga VS. Yoshihara)

In the print, Kazuo Shiraga takes on Jiro Yoshihara.
Both were founding members of the Gutai Group.
Shiraga is known for his piece Challenging Mud (1955),
in which he put on a sort of diaper and rolled around in mud.
Yoshihara is known for his paintings of circles, probably meant to be donuts (right?).

Gutai Group was founded in 1954, ostensibly by Yoshihara and maybe
Shozo Shimamoto, who made paintings by throwing cans of paint

1954 was also the year that Godzilla made his debut.
Godzilla was a giant monster produced by the nuclear
fallout from American bomb testing.

Ishiro Honda's classic featured the likes of Takashi Shimura,
one of Kurosawa's go to's, who had just starred in Ikiru a few year earlier.
Also, the score to Godzilla (by Akira Ifukube) is pretty amazing.
The theme is great by itself (the link is a medley, theme at start).
Also in the score, there is the strangely nationalistic
(for what nation?), almost Souza-esque Godzilla march.

1954 also saw the detonation of the American
thermonuclear hydrogen bomb test Castle-Bravo,
which – due to its unexpectedly large blast radius –
created nuclear fallout that resulted in the radiation poisoning
of a number of islanders and the Daigo Fukuryu Maru.

Here is an excerpt from the Gutai Manifesto:

          "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?"

To make culturally specific a misquote of Adorno:
How does a nation make art after Hiroshima?

Lots of Gutai work deals with ideas of negation, emptiness,
embodiment, violence, movement, the gesture, destruction,
and post-war (atomic age) apprehension.
Other non-Gutai Japanese artists were doing similar things.
Shomei Tomatsu was photographing objects from Hiroshima.
See also the ceramics of Kazuo Yagi:
Circle (1967) and Hekitai (Wall) (1963)
The texture of the ruptured ceramics reflect the effects of an atom bomb,
releasing the organic state of things. Glass bottles melt to amorphous blobs.
Compare it with the skin of Godzilla.

I am also reminded of the way Godzilla's trademark roar was created:

"The roar was present in the first Godzilla (1954) and was created by composer Akira Ifukube who produced the sound by rubbing a resin-covered leather glove along the loosened strings of a double bass and then slowing down the playback."

There is something very Gutai about the image of 
Ifukube rubbing a resin glove on a loose double bass.

But back to Shiraga and Yoshihara.
Yoshihara's circle paintings encompass much of the
 ideas of negation and emptiness after the war.
In Yoshihara's Red Circle (1969), a reference to the Japanese flag –
and hence Japanese Nationalism – is explicit.
How does one be nationalistic in post-war Japan?
A hollow red circle.
And Shiraga flails in the mud.

No comments:

Post a Comment