To Challenge the Sun: Exhibitions of the Gutai Art Association, Ashiya

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Art ・MLA

Osaka, Tokyo, 1955-57” tracks the inventive development of Japanese artists after the postwar occupation. These developments have been stimulated by an initiative via local newspapers publishers to renew the international contact between Japanese artists and their international counterparts. As a result of that initiative, the Gutai Art Association began adopting the creative techniques of the then renowned American summary artist, Jackson Pollock, which involved the incorporation of matter and nature in artwork.

The crew would later use Pollock’s influence to develop new strategies of abstract art. One of such developments was the introduction of action painting which they would display at outdoor exhibitions and later at the Ohara Kaikan exhibition in Tokyo. Another characteristic of the group was its unique approach to abstract art which involved immediate and direct expression, application of non-standard material, and their artistic view that time could also be manipulated to create a sense of temporality. The author observes that their identity was also further established by their use of the outdoor setting to draw attention to matters of perception, the artistic process, and the interaction between the artist and their observers. Unfortunately, their work would only appear retrograde since the avant-garde paradigm was already established by the time they received international recognition of their own.

The group continued experimenting with other techniques, but its crucial turning point was the arrival of acclaimed French critic – Michel Tapie - in 1957. Although Michel’s agenda was to revive interest in l’art informel, his appreciation of the Gutai group’s artistic maturity instead inspired him to join their association. He would improve the group’s composition with the arrival of Georges Mathieu from France, Sam Francis from America, and the return of Japanese artist, Toshimitsu Imai. In so doing, the Gutai Art Association gained further global recognition and for the first time competed with international gesture painting artists. With time, advanced international artists adopted what the Gutai had been doing since the mid-fifties.

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