A related symposium, "Gutai: A 'Concrete' Discussion of Transnationalism," featuring leading scholars in the field, including Dr. Tiampo, will be held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan on November 18 (for further information, visit www.guggenheim.org).
This exhibition examines the fruitful relationship that developed between the avant-garde Gutai Art Association, which was founded in Osaka, Japan, in 1954 and New York artists in the 1950s and 1960s. It draws in particular on material in the collection of the Pollock-Krasner House in East Hampton, New York, and a group of paintings in the collection of Paul Jenkins, who was an artist in residence at the Gutai Pinacotheca in Osaka in 1964. The paintings were given to Jenkins in exchange for his own works as an act of friendship. As he recalled the time he and the Gutai artists spent together, Jenkins said that they were "under each other's spell."
Installation views of the exhibition
In the group's manifesto, its founder Jiro Yoshihara defined Gutai as truth to the material of which art is made, and lifting that material to spiritual heights. He singled out Jackson Pollock and the French painter Georges Mathieu as artists who "grapple with the material in a way which is completely appropriate to it," and encouraged group members to emulate this approach. Their efforts were publicized in a journal, Gutai, of which 14 issues appeared from 1955-65.
The Gutai group was well aware of its distance from the art world's centers, and used the postal system extensively to build their international network. These efforts resulted in their publication of some of Ray Johnson's earliest moticos, and the inclusion of Gutai in Allan Kaprow's 1966 book Assemblage, Environments and Happenings. Yoshihara collected art journals from around the world, and also sent copies of the Gutai journal to artists overseas, including Pollock. In 1956, when B.H. Friedman was helping Lee Krasner organize Pollock's affairs, he came across issues 2 and 3 of the Gutai journal in Pollock's library. Friedman wrote to the group, requesting a subscription and commenting, "I know these publications of yours must have been loved by Jackson, as they are concerned with the same kind of vision and reality with which he was."
In addition to paintings by several Gutai members, including Yoshihara, Atsuko Tanaka, Shozo Shimamoto, Sadamasa Motonaga, Kazuo Shiraga and Akira Kanayama, the exhibition will include examples of the Gutai journal and other publications, works by New York artist who related strongly to Gutai, videos of Gutai exhibitions and performances in Japan, and photographs of American artists—including Jenkins, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and John Cage—visiting the Gutai group in 1964.
The exhibition at NJCU will be expanded with an addition of four more paintings by Gutai members from private collections in New York.
The exhibition catalogue features essays on the interaction between Gutai and New York artists by guest curator Ming Tiampo, Ph.D., associate professor of art history at Carleton University in Ottawa, and on Jackson Pollock's relationship to the Gutai group by Tetsuya Oshima, Ph.D., curator of the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art in Japan.
Jackson Pollock, Untitled (after Number 8, 1951/ "Black Flowing"), 1951, screen print, Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, NY
Atsuko Tanaka, Drawing after Electric Dress, 1956, color pencil on paper, Private Collection
Shozo Shimamoto, Untitled, 1964, Oil and enamel on cotton stretched over wood panel, lent by Paul and Suzanne Jenkins.
Copies of Gutai 2 & 3, sent to Jackson Pollock by Shozo Shimamoto, 1956. Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, NY