Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

The Modern Art Notes Podcast: Gutai

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This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast spotlights “Gutai: Splendid Playground” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The program’s first guest is Alexandra Munroe, who co-curated the exhibition with Ming Tiampo. The exhibition’s beautiful and important (but index-lacking) catalogue was published by the Guggenheim and the show’s website is rich with information, images and a 10-minute introductory video.

Gutai was a two-generation Japanese art movement that was active from about 1954-72. Gutai artists built upon post-war openness and explored art as a particular kind of freedom, making work that embraced performance, including audience in artworks and non-traditional materials. The Gutai artists were particularly eager to engage with international developments in art such as abstract expressionism, Fluxus, art informel and more. Gutai’s focus on embracing new materials and methods led affiliated artists to performative painting, exhibitions in public parks, and art that engaged electronics and light. Fifty-nine artists participated in Gutai activities; the work of 25 of them is in the Guggenheim’s exhibition.

Alexandra Munroe is the senior curator of Asian art at the Guggenheim. Her previous exhibitions include “Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity, “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860-1989, and “Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe” and a 1989 retrospective of Yayoi Kusama.

Among the topics Munroe discusses with host Tyler Green are:

  • The numerous ways in which Gutai artists interacted with their peers around the world, especially in the United States…;
  • … and yet how the movement has been substantially overlooked by American art historians over the last 30-plus years;
  • The impact of Hans Namuth’s famous photographs of Jackson Pollock influenced Gutai artists — and how photographs of Gutai performances and art trafficked int he West; and
  • The legacies of artists Tanaka Atsuko (the only Gutai artist to be the subject of a monographic exhibition in the U.S. in the last 40 years), Yoshihara Jiro (who founded Gutai), Shimamoto Shozo and Saburo Murakami.

During the program, Munroe references Roberta Smith’s New York Times review of “Gutai,” which can be found here.

On the second segment, artist Yevgeniy Fiks discusses his exhibition “Homosexuality is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America” at Winkleman Gallery. Fiks’ exhibition examines the way anti-gay and anti-Communist rhetoric fed each other and overlapped during the McCarthy years. The exhibition is on view through March 23.

How to listen: Download the show to your PC/mobile device. Subscribe to The MAN Podcast via iTunesSoundCloudStitcher or RSS. Stream the program at MANPodcast.com.

The Modern Art Notes Podcast is an independent production of Modern Art Notes Media. The program is edited by Wilson Butterworth. The MAN Podcast is released under this Creative Commons license.

For links images of artworks discussed on this week’s show, please click through to the jump.

Shiraga Kazuo, Work II, 1958. Collection of the Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe.

Tanaka Atsuko, Electric Dress, 1956 (refabricated 1986). Collection of the Takamatsu City Museum of Art, Japan.

Yoshihara Jirō, Please Draw Freely, 1956.

Murakami Saburō, Passing Through, 1956.

Shiraga Kazuo, Challenging Mud, 1955. (Performance views.)

Shiraga Kazuo.

Tanaka Atsuko, Work (Yellow Cloth), 1955.

Tanaka Atsuko installing Work (Bell), 1955.

Shimamoto Shōzō making a painting by throwing glass bottles of paint against a canvas, 1956.

Kanayama Akira, Balloon, 1956. (Installation with Yves Kleins at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1956.)

Yevgeniy Fiks, “Homosexuality is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy the United States,” installation view.

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