Dominique Lévy gallery in New York features works by two post-war Japanese artists.

From 29 January to 4 April 2015, Dominique Lévy gallery is showing seminal works by postwar Japanese artist Kazuo Shiraga of Gutai, with sculptures by Satoru Hoshino of Sōdeisha, the avant-garde postwar ceramics group. Both artists experiment with new ways of engaging their medium that challenge traditional techniques.

 Kazuo Shiraga, 'Suijū', 1985, oil on canvas, 192.4 x 257.2 cm. Photo courtesy Tom Powel Imaging.

Kazuo Shiraga, ‘Suijū’, 1985, oil on canvas, 192.4 x 257.2 cm. Photo courtesy Tom Powel Imaging.

Entitled “Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino, the show is curated by Koichi Kawasaki, former Director of Ashiya City Museum of Art and History in Japan. Entitled “Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino, the show is curated by Koichi Kawasaki, former Director of Ashiya City Museum of Art and History in Japan.

Between painting and performance

On view are 23 abstract paintings of varying colours, including the foot paintings that Shiraga is known for. The vibrant paintings, spanning from 1959 to 2001, allow the viewer to experience the dynamic energy with which he interacted with his medium.

Installation view of "Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino", 2015. Image courtesy Dominique Lévy gallery.

Installation view of “Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino”, 2015. Image courtesy Dominique Lévy gallery.

 Kazuo Shiraga, 'Tenkosei Kaosho', 1962, oil on canvas, 182 x 273 cm. Photo courtesy Tom Powel Imaging.

Kazuo Shiraga, ‘Tenkosei Kaosho’, 1962, oil on canvas, 182 x 273 cm. Photo courtesy Tom Powel Imaging.

Shiraga and Gutai

According to the press release, Shiraga used “his entire body, including his feet, to performatively manipulate thick layers of pigment.” His renowned piece Challenging Mud (1955) was performed in Tokyo for the 1st Gutai Art Exhibition, where he tackled mud, cement and plaster with his body.

 Kazuo Shiraga in his studio, 1960. Image courtesy Amagasaki Cultural Center.

Kazuo Shiraga in his studio, 1960. Image courtesy Amagasaki Cultural Center.

Shiraga wrote in 1955:

I want to paint as though rushing around a battlefield, exerting myself to collapse from exhaustion.

Kazuo Shiraga, Chijikusei Gotenrai 1961, Oil on canvas. 51 3/16 x 63 3/4 inches (130 x 162 cm) Photo Courtesy Ketterer Kunst

Kazuo Shiraga, ‘Chijikusei Gotenrai’, 1961, oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm. Photo courtesy Ketterer Kunst.

Kazuo Shiraga, Untitled, 1962, oil on canvas, 91 x 116 cm. Photo courtesy Jan Liegeois.

Kazuo Shiraga, Untitled, 1962, oil on canvas, 91 x 116 cm. Photo courtesy Jan Liegeois.

Although the two artists never met, Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino have in common their innovative approach to art making.

 Installation view of "Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino", 2015. Image courtesy Dominique Lévy Gallery.

Installation view of “Body and Matter: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Satoru Hoshino”, 2015. Image courtesy Dominique Lévy Gallery.

Leaving fingerprints

Hoshino’s nine textured ceramic sculptures on view, dating from 1980 to the 1990s, were created through a process of prodding and shaping the clay with his hands, leaving visible imprints of his fingers in the finished works. Instead of following the Japanese ceramic tradition which removes the artist’s handwork by creating a smooth and refined surface, Hoshino saw his art-making as a collaboration between the artist and clay.

 Satoru Hoshino, 'Surfacing Bird (Flight of W)', 1991, smoked earthenware, 55 × 81 × 17 cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

Satoru Hoshino, ‘Surfacing Bird (Flight of W)’, 1991, smoked earthenware, 55 × 81 × 17 cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

 Satoru Hoshino, 'Surfacing Flower', 1989, smoked earthenware, 12 × 77.5 × 70 cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

Satoru Hoshino, ‘Surfacing Flower’, 1989, smoked earthenware, 12 × 77.5 × 70 cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

 Satoru Hoshino, 'Outline of Background IV', 1990, smoked earthenware, 22 × 71.5 × 57cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

Satoru Hoshino, ‘Outline of Background IV’, 1990, smoked earthenware, 22 × 71.5 × 57cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

 Satoru Hoshino, 'Outline of Background X', 1990, smoked earthenware, 27 × 72 × 58cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

Satoru Hoshino, ‘Outline of Background X’, 1990, smoked earthenware, 27 × 72 × 58cm. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Image courtesy the artist.

Postwar Japanese art in a global context

In recent years, postwar Japanese artists have piqued the interest of museums and galleries in New York and the United States, leading to pivotal exhibitions at MoMA, entitled “Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde” (2012), and “Gutai: Splendid Playground” (2013) at the Guggenheim in New York.

Both exhibitions, along with Dominique Lévy‘s “Body and Matter”, challenged conventional ways of evaluating artists from different regions and nationalities, leading to the discovery and re-examination of these works in a global context.

During her presentation at the “Gutai as Science Fiction” symposium at the Guggenheim on 12 March 2013, in conjunction with the exhibition “Gutai: Splendid Playground”, Ming Tiampo – the author of Gutai: Decentering Modernism, and the co-curator of the show at the Guggenheim – spoke about the significance of Gutai in re-evaluating how the history of art is exhibited and written:

We are recovering a moment that was not a part of history that was written from the point of view of the West […] when you hand the agency of history over to the Japanese […] you begin to understand that it’s also about writing and presenting history of art that is both situated and local but tied to a transnational narrative.

 Kazuo Shiraga, 'Iizuminokami-Kanesada', 1962, oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm. Photo courtesy Tom Powel Imaging

Kazuo Shiraga, ‘Iizuminokami-Kanesada’, 1962, oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm. Photo courtesy Tom Powel Imaging

More about the artists

Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008) was born in Amagasaki, Japan. He studied traditional Japanese painting at the Kyoto Municipal Special School of Painting and graduated in 1948. In 1952, he co-founded the Zero Group with Saburo Murakami and Akira Kanayama, and in 1955 joined the Gutai Art Association. At the first Gutai Art Exhibition in Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo 1955, he performed Challenging Mud. His works have been exhibited around the world, including at The Museum of Modern Art in Wakayama, the 2009 Venice Biennale, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Dallas Museum of Art.

Satoru Hoshino (b. 1945, Niigata Prefecture, Japan) graduated from Ritsumeikan University in 1971. For many years, he was part of the avant-garde, non-functional ceramic movement Sōdeisha. His approach towards his art and medium changed in 1986, when a landslide destroyed his studio. Hoshino’s works are in collections at numerous museums, including The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Musée Ariana, Geneva, Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota.

Upcoming exhibitions on Kazuo Shiraga in the United States

Christine Lee

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Related Topics: gallery shows, Japanese artists, picture feasts, globalisation of art, art in New York
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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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