09 April, 2006
from tate glossary
Japanese avant-garde group. Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai (Gutai Art Association) was formed in 1954 in Osaka by Yoshihara Jiro, Kanayma Akira, Murakami Saburo, Shiraga Kazuo, and Shimamoto Shozo. The word has been translated into English as 'embodiment' or 'concrete'. Yoshihara was an older artist around whom the group coalesced and who financed it. 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. The art historian Yve-Alain Bois has said that 'the activities of the Gutai group in the mid-1950s constitute one of the most important moments of post-war Japanese culture'. Ashiya City Museum of Art and History in Japan holds a large collection of Gutai work and archives. The group dissolved in 1972 following the death of Yoshihara. There was a retrospective exhibition of their work at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1999.
the gutai manifesto
info page translated from french with pics
Atsuko Tanaka is one of Japan's most renowned avant-garde artists. She was a member of the Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai (Gutai Art Association) which was founded by the respected artist Jiro Yoshihara (1904-72), a gestural, abstract painter and influential teacher, in 1954 and existed until 1972. The word "gutai" is composed of two signs, "gu" meaning tool and "tai" meaning body, and it is variously translated as "concreteness" or "embodiment". In quest of "an art which has never existed before", the young artists experimented enthusiastically not only on paintings but also with various activities like open-air or staged events which were precursors to the Happenings of the late 1950s in New York and anticipated today's installation or performance elements.