Some artists are not ever fully understood or appreciated in their time and, as the years go on, it’s becoming clear that Kazuo Shiraga is one of those artists. With the Gutai group, he created revolutionary art in the mid-20th century, the likes of which had never been seen in Japan. The making of the art was in itself a performance, with avant-garde techniques that thrilled, confused, and hypnotized.
“In 1954 the Gutai Bijutsu Kyōkai, or Gutai group, became Japan’s first post-war radical art movement,” the video explains. “Their work encompassed painting, performance and happenings — much in line with avant-garde artistic developments in Europe — but passed largely under the radar in the West during the second half of the 20th century.”
That’s been changing. This video from Christie’s looks at Shiraga and the history of the Gutai group, including their use of paper screens, abstract creations, and painting with your entire body. You can see the whole video here:
Shiraga passed away in April of 2008, just as an understanding of his work and the work of the Guati group was beginning to emerge. Although he’s gone, the legacy of Gutai is not just living on, it’s growing and thriving — and we have Shiraga to thank for that.