Exhibitions

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s aims to show connections between the work of a diverse range of artists from two geographic locations – Italy and Japan – during the early post-war period. Artists from groups such as Arte Povera, Gutai, and Mono-ha are included in the exhibition. Works on view are part of The Rachofsky Collection, The Amy and Vernon Faulconer Collection, and the Dallas Museum of Art, along with a number of other collections. Many of these artists have not been shown prominently throughout the United States, and along with the Dallas Museum of Art, The Warehouse is making a concerted effort to present this exciting and important material to an American audience.

INTRODUCTION

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s
Allan Schwartzman

Fourteen years ago, we acquired the first Italian artwork to enter The Rachofsky Collection—a dark pierced painting on cardboard from 1952 by Lucio Fontana. Modest in dimension, it was far from the grand scale of the concurrent American Abstract Expressionism that had been favored by American museums and collectors to the exclusion of postwar European art. And yet the boundlessness of the universe that it seemed to depict nonetheless shared an underlying sense of the contemporary with the American art our historians had isolated it from. If the detonation of the atomic bomb could be seen to have provided a broader cultural understanding for the explosive paintings of Jackson Pollock, then the exploration of outer space could be understood to have provided a framework for experiencing the pierced paintings that Fontana began to create in 1949 and that the artist saw as portraying what he called “fourth dimensional space.” We might also understand that this preoccupation with space beyond the canvas that would be played out for the rest of Fontana’s life also helped set the stage for what would evolve into a transnational preoccupation in the 1960s and 70s with sculpture and environmental art in Western and Eastern Europe, the United States, Latin America, and Japan.

Before acquiring the Fontana, the collection had been focused on American Minimalism, and in our search to create a historical framework for Minimalism, we had acquired a black painting by Ad Reinhardt. The Fontana, we reasoned, would add a meaningful historical reference, one that was not common in American collections. This single acquisition would soon change the course of the collection by allowing us to recognize that the art of the United States and Europe after World War II were not as far apart as we had been trained to perceive them to be, and that this road not taken was ripe territory for exploration for a collection that did not want to follow in the mold of others and that was being formed to become part of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Since then, we have assembled an extensive collection of Italian art of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, with a concentrated group of works by the masters of the postwar period—Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Piero Manzoni, Mimmo Rotella, and Enrico Castellani—and of the Arte Povera movement—Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, Giovanni Anselmo, Luciano Fabro, Giulio Paolini, and Giuseppe Penone, whose art they set in motion, and who have provided many opportunities for us to better understand art after Minimalism as a network of overlapping artistic investigations that were occurring concurrently in different parts of the world.

Early in the process of evolving this conception of the collection, we examined a historically incisive painting by Jannis Kounellis, Lunedi, Martedi, Mercoledi (1963), which we soon acquired. While viewing that work at the home of the collector who owned it, we couldn’t help but notice a large and commanding abstract painting hanging nearby; it had been so heavily worked that its surface had ripped apart and was dominated by gaping holes. Who made this? The process-driven surface made us think a little of early Manzoni, a little of Burri, while the holes had an undeniable relationship with Fontana; and yet this work, while evidently made of the same artistic moment, was also somehow clearly something else entirely. (Its tattered materiality would also have strong links to the early works of Rotella that would enter the collection years later.) It was by Shozo Shimamoto, a name we had not known, who was part of a Japanese postwar movement we had not heard of called Gutai. Not fully understanding the work, but being as captivated by it as we had been by that first Fontana, we set about trying to find a Shimamoto for the collection, which a few years later we did.

Around the same time, we had been introduced to the paintings of Kazuo Shiraga, another central Gutai artist. We were captivated by the intense physicality of the work, and yet we struggled with how to understand it as distinct from and equally authentic to the gestural paintings of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline that we had been conditioned to view it as derivative of. Even though we wouldn’t pursue a Shiraga until years later, we couldn’t dismiss it either; the work was simply too potent.

A few years ago, through a confluence of opportunity, access, and nagging curiosity, we set as a priority to collect masterworks of Gutai. Around this same time, Tim Blum of Blum & Poe told us about a show he was intending to organize on the subject of Mono-ha, a sculpture-based movement in Japan of the late 1960s. Many of the works that were cornerstones of Mono-ha had evident connections to American Post-Minimalism and Process Art, and to Italian Arte Povera; as we had already been on this path, this was a bridge we could more speedily cross. And so in the last few years, the collection of postwar Japanese art has grown to about the same scale and breadth as the postwar Italian collection.

Certainly there are known contemporary links between Italian and Japanese art in the years following World War II: Fontana was featured prominently in Gutai journals and exhibitions of the 1950s, and Arte Povera artists were shown alongside those of Mono-ha (as well as American Minimal and Post-Minimal artists) at the 1970 Tokyo Biennale. But this history remains little understood. Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s is presented as a proposition about underexplored historical confluences, an invitation to more fully examine the connections, influences, and simultaneities in the postwar period between the art of these two cultures that were facing a similar set of conditions after the war—rejecting fascist tyrannies, and, in turn, positioning themselves in relation to a world they were now linking to economically and politically, and in the case of artists, defining their connection to (or away from) their own cultural pasts, and their relationship to art made elsewhere in the world at that time.

The exhibition is principally installed in two parallel tracks that examine the development of art in postwar Japan and Italy independently. There are several rooms of cohabitation. Gallery 1 looks at works made of the scraps and bits of a postwar condition. Such work was made well beyond Italy and Japan, and we chose to suggest this with the inclusion of works from Europe (Christo, Marcel Broodthaers) and the United States (Bruce Conner, Robert Rauschenberg).
Gallery 2 connects works that do not naturally belong together, but that resonate with parallels: the punctured canvases of Lucio Fontana and the sculpture of rock breaking glass of Lee Ufan. And Gallery 3 presents a cohabitation of Arte Povera and Mono-ha masterworks that resonate, principally, without evident cultural differentiation.

There are many parallels to explore. I mention here a few: the scarce materiality of a war-torn world in the bits of newspaper of Shimamoto and the posters ripped from the streets by Rotella, and the underlying political implications to both; the stabs and slashes of Fontana and the holed surfaces of Shimamoto; the experiments in materiality of Burri and Takesada Matsutani; the pendulous sculptures comprising the unlikely marriage of materials in the canvas and rock of Nobuo Sekine and the marble and steel of Fabro; the existential riddle of Pistoletto’s cube of mirrors turned inward and of Lee’s rock-smashed glass atop a nearly imperceptible sheet of steel; the parallel mirrored hall of photographs of photographs (memories of memories) in the art of Takamatsu and Paolini; the personal poetry of Marisa Merz rooted in the self and that of Yayoi Kusama rooted in the abstract.

But more than the look of things, what all these artists share is their own individual spirit of investigation, of, as in the case of Gutai (and as in the broader spirit of the avant-garde), making something that hasn’t been made before. Of course, there are many differences between the art of Italy and Japan (and beyond) in the postwar period, and these are ripe for exploration as well. For example, the Gutai artists closely linked themselves to the performative nature of contemporary American (and to a lesser extent the conventions of European) painting, while the artists of Italy searched for their way out of painting, materially and spatially. Or, consider, Manzoni’s highly esthetic ghostly painting of wrinkles formed by chance of process and Takamatsu’s vinyl sculpture of a seemingly casual heap of wrinkles that are so meticulously constructed.

This interest in better understanding simultaneous interrelationships of art in different parts of the world in the postwar period is shared throughout the Dallas community. Many of the Japanese works were jointly acquired with the Dallas Museum of Art. Vernon Faulconer, co-founder of The Warehouse, is also a lender to this exhibition. A number of the Japanese and Italian works were acquired jointly with Deedie Rose, a frequent collaborator who is also donating her collection to the DMA.

Indeed, while the art of Gutai was often formed in direct response to contemporary painting in the United States and Europe, one could also explore the interconnections and responses in Brazil in the postwar period to European Constructivism, which it was simultaneously rooted in and differentiating itself from. This could well be the subject of another exhibition, as the Rose Collection has set as one of its priorities to collect major Brazilian art of this same time period (and beyond). If we had more space, we could just as well have featured American art as part of this international artistic stew, and looked at the great Minimalism that has been collected by the DMA and the Rose and Rachofsky Collections, as well as the remarkable Frank Stella, Donald Judd, and Ellsworth Kelly works in the collection of Marguerite Hoffman, whose wonderful Pistoletto sculpture adds immeasurably to Parallel Views.

Parallel Views is but a starting point for exploring historical relationships that not so long ago we were blinded from seeing. And as such, the exhibition articulates the hope that The Warehouse can be a laboratory for fresh thinking about art that we believe made a difference.

 

Allan Schwartzman is the curator of Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

EXHIBITION ESSAY

Questions Not Answers
Joshua Mack

During the spring of 1970, two exhibitions with tellingly different takes on the post–World War II order opened in Japan. In Osaka, Expo ’70 (March 15–September 13), similar to the World’s Fairs that had taken place in Brussels (1958), New York (1964), and Montreal (1967), marked Japan’s extraordinary transformation in the previous two decades from a war-ravaged society to the world’s second largest economy. Organized around the theme of “Progress and Harmony for Mankind,” rife with futuristic architecture, and including a presentation of intermedia art organized by the New York–based Experiments in Art and Technology (housed in a pavilion sponsored by Pepsi), Expo ’70 celebrated this revival as the product of Pax Americana, a comfortable and monolithic internationalism based on shared values of democracy and commerce, of which art was both an example and an expression.

In the nation’s capital, Between Man and Matter, the 10th Tokyo Biennale (May 10–30),1 considered contemporary culture as a skein of diverse yet equal aesthetic and conceptual approaches and ideas. Including work by artists from Europe, Japan, and the United States—some of it conceptual, some minimalist, much realized in situ with materials such as iron, stone, concrete, and glass, all installed with little or no intervention—the exhibition strove to identify a zeitgeist among what the commissioner, Nakahara Yūsuke, described as forty different approaches:2 What united these approaches, he posited, was a common understanding of the relationship between man and matter. Rather than using material to form an image, the artists presented their materials as if they were “cut out from the real world.”3 Instead of coalescing to form an image, the work revealed the contingent relationships between matter and man, space and time. The work of art would be the sum of these links, and experiencing them, entering into relationships with material, pointed to the “real world,” of which everything, people included, were but fragments.

Nakahara was not the first to express interest in the mutuality of man and matter. Among like-minded exhibitions cited in his catalog essay for the Biennale are Harald Szeemann’s exhibition Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, at the Kunsthalle Bern, and Round Pegs in Square Holes, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In addition to arriving at similar understandings of contemporary art, these shows proposed that culture is a process of exchange between different voices rather than the top down articulation of values for which politically engaged artists—particularly on the left—critiqued Expo ’70. “Plurality is essential and meaning lies in plurality,”4 Nakahara wrote; it’s a statement that describes both his curatorial approach and the artistic interests it revealed.

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, at The Warehouse, includes substantial groups of works by Lucio Fontana (who was active in Milan during the 1950s and ’60s), members of the Gutai Art Association (founded outside Osaka, Japan, in 1954), artists associated with Arte Povera (in Italy during the ’60s and ’70s), and participants in the short-lived Mono-ha movement in Tokyo (after 1968), allowing us to trace a fundamental shift in the conception of art akin to the one outlined by Nakahara in his introduction to the Tokyo Biennale.5 No longer intended to represent a form—abstract or figurative—nor possessed of a self-contained meaning, artworks were now considered mere fragments of greater processes, parts of what Nakahara called “open systems.”

What becomes clear in Parallel Views is that painting and sculpture were understood as transit points in a dialog between artist, material, and the public. Engaging its audience in dynamic visual and spatial relationships, art became the site of a potential conversation that relied on the active agency of the viewer and was renewed whenever an individual encountered a work. Moreover, the experience became an example and an expression of an evolving social ideal, whether the impetus was Fontana’s urge to renew the human spirit after the destruction of World War II, Gutai’s faith in originality as a counterweight to Fascist conformity, or Mono-ha’s and Arte Povera’s articulation of sculpture as a site of contingency, which was motivated by their increasing discontent with the continued rise of consumerism and conservative political institutions in the turbulent years after 1968.

The material and thematic overlaps evident in Parallel Views also raise questions —not yet adequately researched—about exchanges between Italy and Japan. Gutai works were shown in Turin in the late 1950s, and throughout the following two decades artists in both countries participated in increasingly complex and extensive exchanges across national borders.

What underlies both Nakahara’s curatorial approach and the questions mooted in Parallel Views is an evolving understanding that modernism was not a process extending a dominant model from Paris or New York to outlying countries, like Japan or Italy, but rather a process of exchange and information between interlinked nodes. Its dynamic is a process of creative interpretation in which concepts originating in one context were understood differently in another. In another neat dovetail, Gutai was both an example and a progenitor of this kind of transnational exchange.

It was through a process of creative translation that Yoshihara Jirō, the founder of Gutai, developed an expansive definition of painting as time-based and interactive. Heir to a fortune derived from the processing of edible oils, and a painter in his own right—one highly versed in pre-war modernism and possessed of a substantial library—Yoshihara had been intrigued by an article on Jackson Pollock published in the April 1951 issue of Art News, which described Pollock as working from the abstract to the concrete and suggested that the visual and spatial relationships he established exceeded the dimensions of his canvases.6

Yoshihara fused these ideas into a conception of painting as the intersection of material, space, time, and author. In the Gutai Manifesto (gutai translates to “concrete”), published in 1956, he proclaimed, “Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter,” implying that painting was a process that revealed the concrete properties of materials.7 Moreover, as those properties existed in real time and actual space, they need not be confined to the parameters of a canvas. For example, the whorls and eddies of paint in Shiraga Kazuo’s Chiinsei Botaichu (1961), which the artist painted with his feet while suspended above the canvas from a rope, seem to swirl beyond the borders of the work, just as the artist’s feet would have during its execution.

Yoshihara also believed that Gutai should be part of an international artistic community, one with which he sought an active dialog. Between 1955 and 1965, the Gutai Art Association published twelve issues of a journal that documented its activities, including performances and outdoor exhibitions. The issues were mailed to critics and artists in Europe, the United States, and South Africa (two were found in Jackson Pollock’s studio after his death).

Through the journal, Gutai came to the attention of the French critic Michel Tapié, who, in 1957, traveled to Japan and began a relationship with the association that resulted in the regular exhibition of its work in Europe. In 1959, for example, Tapié facilitated two shows in Turin (later the center of Arte Povera): the first a broad survey of contemporary abstract painting held at the Circolo degli Artisti,8 a nonprofit institution founded in the mid-nineteenth century and devoted to artistic dialog in the Piedmont region; the second a show devoted solely to Gutai at Notizie, a small private gallery.9 Between 1960 and 1962, Tapié also maintained an independent space in Turin, the International Center of Aesthetic Research, which both exhibited and sold Gutai works.10

In addition to mounting exhibitions, Notizie regularly published a small journal, Arti Figurative, and on the occasion of its Gutai show, devoted an issue to the group’s activities. Carefully curated to present Gutai’s interest in upsetting conventional aesthetics, the journal documented its members’ use of nontraditional materials and techniques. It included photographs of performances and outdoor installations, among them one of Shiraga Kazuo painting with his feet and another of Shimamoto  Shōzō dwarfed by a massive painted tarp strung between two trees. In a poem—translated into French—Shimamoto listed various artistic materials: blood and wax came under the heading of paint; electric cooker and time, under brush; and trash can, zinc plate, and street, under canvas. Sumi Yasuo wrote that he sought out dirt because it was untouched by human hands. Summarizing Gutai’s commitment to originality as an aesthetic premise, Motonaga Sadamasa explained that its artists employed all possible techniques and materials, even time, to clear the way for all possible, and fresh, forms of beauty.11

Luciano Pistoi, one of the principals of Notizie, later opened his own gallery and showed Pino Pascali, Giulio Paolini, and Luciano Fabro in the 1960s. In addition, both Mario Merz and Michelangelo Pistoletto were active in Turin in the 1950s. It remains unclear what effect this presentation of Gutai might have had on their use of everyday materials, or on Pistoletto’s development of artistic strategies that integrated theater and social interaction, motivated, in part, by a highly irreverent and skeptical assessment of social and artistic conventions. There are, however, tantalizing nods to possible connections and thought-provoking indications of how Gutai was received in Europe at the time.

Another French critic, Pierre Restany, who had met members of Gutai in Osaka during a trip to Japan in 1962, described their performances and outdoor exhibitions as spectacular, dynamic, and groundbreaking, although he lumped their paintings in with the kind of generic gestural abstraction widely practiced in Europe during the 1950s.12 The Catalan painter Antoni Tàpies, writing in 1999, suggested that Gutai “installations, theater, and actions in nature . . . at a moment when many Western artists felt the need to renew the role of art in life, affected . . . Arte Povera, body art, earth art, happenings and theatrical actions.”13 The historian Barbara Bertozzi noted physical similarities between several Arte Povera and Gutai installations.14 Art historian and critic Germano Celant, who coined the phrase “Arte Povera” in 1967, suggested that the artists he associated with it derived a sense of “permission” from Gutai.15

Aside from Bertozzi’s suggestion of direct influence, these comments point to a subtle process of interpretation and recontextualization similar to that through which Yoshihara considered Pollock. What begs for further research is the role of Gutai as a voice among many in a decades-long process in which the concept of the artwork, its identity and function, shifted in response to, as Tàpies described it, a need “to renew the role of art in life.”16

The war undoubtedly stimulated this call for renewal. As the pairing of Fontana’s Crucifix (1950/60)—a withered corpse sculpted in tortured, twisted ceramic—and Tōmatsu Shōmei’s 1961 photograph of a wristwatch stopped at the moment the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki (these are the works that introduce Parallel Views) suggests, the war had reduced humanity to its abject material essentials. But its cessation also constituted a zero hour, when time had not only stopped but could also begin again—a moment of possible resurrection, in which society, like the dead Christ, would transcend matter and effect a new ethical order.

Fontana believed that this transformation would issue from man’s direct engagement with the quotidian materiality of the world. He articulated his ideas in a series of manifestos (the first issued in 1946) and interviews (the last granted shortly before his death in 1968) calling for the liberation of painting from its frame and its insertion into public space. In 1949, he began piercing his canvases with an increasingly violent repertoire of perforations and slashes designed to unite material and motion. The assaults both emphasized the tattered weave of the fabric and visually incorporated the space within the work with that behind and around it. Eschewing illusion and linking the artwork with the place of exhibition, Fontana reduced the world to the here and now. Engaging the viewer’s physical sensation and perception of space drew him into what Fontana believed would be an existential confrontation with reality.

In the early 1960s, Fontana synthesized his physical and theoretical strategies in a series of egg-shaped paintings cut nearly to shreds. These he titled Concetto spaziale, la fine di Dio (Spatial Concept, the End of God). Like the withered form of the crucifix, the works’ shape suggests that the genesis of life lies in raw matter and biological processes. The curves of the oval contain all that is possible. It stands as divinity, destroyed literally by the artist and metaphorically by the destruction wrought by the war. Responsibility lies in human action; transformation, therefore, is possible only through the exercise of individual agency. As with the effect he intended his paintings to achieve, it must operate on the physical level to succeed on the intellectual. The audience’s active engagement with the work becomes a microcosm of the broader intellectual epiphany that the latter is meant to inspire.

In the Gutai Manifesto, Yoshihara Jirō articulated a theory of art in which man and matter meet as equals (“In Gutai Art, the human spirit and matter shake hands with each other”17) in a process that reveals the essential quality of the latter and the spirit (in essence the quality) of the former. Yoshihara encouraged spontaneous experimental creativity as the basis of critical and individual inquiry. “What matters most to us is to ensure that contemporary art provides a site enabling the people living through the severe present to be set free,” he explained in the first issue of the Gutai journal.18 By “severe present” he meant the conformist thinking of Japan’s military government, and he contrasted it with the mobility of thought he believed art could encourage.

For example, Yamazaki Tsuruko’s Work (1957), a sheet of reflective tin stained with aniline dyes, both emits a purple glow into and reflects the space in which it is exhibited, thereby asserting itself while also subsuming the venue into itself. The effects, however, are contingent on the moment of individual encounter. What any particular viewer sees depends on her location in relationship to the work, and in reflecting that relationship, the work fuses the interaction of viewer, material, and public place, becoming an image of the individual in time and as part of society.

Tanaka Atsuko’s Work (Bell) (1955) explores related issues of individual and group: connected bells ring in succession whenever a viewer follows the instructions on a button marked “Please Press Here.” As the sound travels around the exhibition space, it requires those present to orient themselves relative to the noise, and to the person activating it, for the duration of the bells’ sounding. As with Yamazaki’s Work, the quality of the experience depends as much on the constituent elements of the piece as on the viewer, a dynamic that establishes a relationship between artist, material, and public in real time.

Differing from Fontana’s desire for a metaphysical epiphany in which spirit remains superior to matter, these works are invitations to a dialog. They are always dependent on the viewer’s choice to push the button and ring the bells.  They not only encourage but also actualize a free exchange between artist and viewer, realizing a social dynamic based in individual agency, which Yoshihara hoped art and creativity would engender.

In 1960, despite mass protests, the Japanese government renewed the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. This flouting of public opinion reinforced the impression that the country was an American client state, and it galvanized artists in Tokyo, among them Takamatsu Jirō, who had become increasingly critical of US-style consumerism and the state’s co-option of dissent through its policy of augmenting living standards. As a member of the Neo-Dada group Hi-Red Center (active between 1963 and 1964), Takamatsu participated in public actions that challenged social conformity and the official regulation of common space. During Street Cleaning Event (1964), Takamatsu and his colleagues scrubbed a sidewalk with toothbrushes to mock the government’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, held that year. Later in the decade, he produced a series of objects and paintings that toyed with perception, such as canvases that depict the shadow cast by absent objects, and sculptures in which three-dimensional objects appear to flatten in a reverse of Renaissance perspective. By undermining the mechanics of vision and suggesting the presence of things that remained unseen, Takamatsu sought to indicate that representation was a fictional construct and that “reality” was contingent and subjective rather than fixed and absolute.

Takamatsu’s critical, quasi-political ethos evinced a shift around 1960 from a belief in renewal and a faith in individual agency that implicitly rejected the recent past, such as that expressed by Yoshihara, to a critique of the present order and a more cynical analysis of the individual’s role in it. Motivated in part by a shared distress with consumerism and social inequality, artists in Italy, such as Michelangelo Pistoletto (who later became associated with Arte Povera), began to conceive work that would, as described by the scholar and curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, free “one’s consciousness from layers of . . . preconceptions which were obstacles between the self and an essential experience of the world,” an ambition that derives in part from the same phenomenological thinking that informed Fontana’s work.19

In 1962, having noticed the mirror effect produced by the black varnish he was applying to one of his paintings, Pistoletto began making his signature Quadri specchianti, or “mirror paintings.” Because the reflective surface pulls viewers into the work, pictorial space and perspective no longer exist solely within the dimensions of the “canvas” but include the space in which they are shown, an effect similar to Yamazaki’s paintings on tin. The creation of each painting’s original source image, its transfer onto the reflective mount, and the moment in which one experiences and “enters” the work become interdependent. As with Gutai, creating and looking are shown to be a continuous and continuing social and interactive process.

A similar interest in contingency and duration underlies the Oggetti in meno, or Minus Objects, a series of sculptures, paintings, and photographic works Pistoletto made in 1965–1966. The term “minus object” derives from the artist’s belief that each work actualized one of an endless number of possibilities. The Metro cubo de infinito (Cubic Meter of Infinity) (1966), a box made of mirrors that face inward and thus reflect each other ad infinitum, is, for example, a fraction of the infinite, isolated and removed from the whole, paradoxically reducing the irreducible.

Describing the Minus Objects, Pistoletto declared, “My new objects do not represent, they are. Each . . .  is a single word in a discussion which could last a lifetime.”20 He initially installed them in his studio, which he opened to the public, creating a theatrical environment where visitors interacted in the area around the objects. Yet in a divergence from Yamazaki, whose work embraces its viewers, Pistoletto’s resists them. It pushes them into a space that remains infinitely malleable but is defined, at any given moment, by its opposition to what is present, and by what might, by the logic of the Minus Objects, be subtracted from it in the future.  It remains a potential, but never realizable, social space.

The Minus Objects superlatively synthesize the dynamic of the open system that Nakahara defined as the new artistic ethos in Between Man and Matter. No longer containing or defining their own meaning, the works are processes cut out from a greater reality. By resisting interpretation, they draw attention to the world and man’s place in it. Intentionally different from each other, they also play on that dissimilarity, undermining the viewer’s expectations of stylistic uniformity. Nakahara’s show also employed difference as a curatorial strategy: in combining temporary and diverse works, he created an exhibition that was itself a slice of a greater cultural reality, one that engaged viewers through the multiplicity of its displays. Unlike the unified vision of the present suggested by Expo ’70’s celebration of progress, Nakahara underscored uncertainty. The world as a whole remains ultimately unknowable as individuals are but fragments of it; their experience is subjective, contingent, and mutable.

In attempting to identify a zeitgeist, Nakahara also began to destabilize the then dominant narrative of Modernism as a process of dispersal from Paris and New York to peripheral cities. Likewise, in seeking to build a community of like-minded artists, Gutai supplanted this dynamic with one based on exchange. Yet they worked at a time when assumptions of derivation were entrenched and claims to historical precedence tenaciously protected; local critics dismissed their paintings as wan Abstract Expressionism when the Martha Jackson Gallery exhibited their work in New York in 1958.

Understanding that influence is a more complex process requires first the realization that, as Nakahara wrote in his essay for Between Man and Matter, meaning lies in diversity, and second, the historical distance to analyze what that plurality might mean and what commonalities might be teased from it. As a more holistic view of history and influence has developed, it has become possible to apply the understanding that our perception of reality is subjective and fragmentary—a lesson inherent in works like those in the Tokyo Biennale—to the greater cultural processes of which they are a part. This pursuit is both the genesis and raison d’être of Parallel Views, which reconsiders history as a transnational conversation and aims to raise open-ended and often contradictory questions about influence, interpretation, and our contemporary understanding of history.


Acknowledgments: My thanks to Howard Rachofsky and Allan Schwartzman for the opportunity to consider Parallel Views; to Thomas Feulmer at The Warehouse for his on the ground and over the web assistance; to Jonathan T. D. Neil for his careful edits; and to Ming Tiampo for her comments, her support, and her scholarship.

Joshua Mack is an art critic and independent curator based in New York. He has a long-standing interest in postwar Japanese art and has recently organized several exhibitions of Tetsumi Kudo with Andrea Rosen Gallery. His written work has appeared in Art in AmericaTime Out New YorkAperture, and Modern Painters, among other publications. He is currently a contributing editor at Art Review, in which he publishes two monthly columns.


1 Held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art. Traveled to the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, June 6–28, and the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya, July 15–26.
Japanese proper names are rendered as in the original language, family name followed by given name.
The catalog for Between Man and Matter included texts in both Japanese and English. Nakahara’s essay has recently been retranslated and included in Doryun Chong et al., eds., From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan 1945–1989: Primary Documents (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012), 227–31. This quote, p. 227.
4 Tokyo Biennale ’70: Between Man and Matter, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1970), unpaginated.
5 In a telling overlap, many of the artists in Between Man and Matter are featured in Parallel Views; they include Nomura Hitoshi, Koshimizu Susumu, Takamatsu Jirō, Luciano Fabro, Giuseppe Penone, and Mario Merz.
Ming Tiampo has written eloquently and extensively on Yoshihara’s understanding of Pollock. See Ming Tiampo, Decentering Modernism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 47–54.
7 Chong et al., From Postwar to Postmodern, 89.
8 The exhibition at Circolo degli Artisti, Arte nuova: International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, was held between May 5 and June 15, 1959. It included work by Kanayama Akira, Masanobu Masatoshi, Motonaga Sadamasa, Murakami Saburō, Shimamoto Shōzō, Shiraga Kazuo, Tanaka Atsuko, and Yoshihara Jirō. Works by Motonaga and Shiraga were also included in the 11th Premio Lissoneheld in October 1959in Lissone, a small town eighteen kilometers outside Milan. Work by Motonaga, Mukai Shūji, Shiraga, and Yoshihara were included in the 21st Premio Lissone in June 1961. Tanaka, Motonaga, Mukai, and Yoshihara were included in the exhibition Strutture e stile at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna in Turin, June 18–August 5, 1962. Tapié also maintained a professional relationship with Galerie Stadler in Paris, which began showing Shiraga Kazuo in 1959. For a full list of exhibitions, including those held at Galerie Stadler in Paris, see the chronology compiled by Hirai Shōichi in Alexandra Munroe, et al., Gutai: Splendid Playground (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2013), 286–99.
9 Notizie was run by three men: Elio Benodi; Enrico Crispolti, who later published two catalogues raisonnés on Lucio Fontana; and Luciano Pistoi, who exhibited the Arte Poverasculptors Pino Pascali, Giulio Paolini, and Luciano Fabro in the 1960s.
10 The exhibition Continuité et avant-garde au Japon, held in March 1961 at the International Center of Aesthetic Research, featured work by seventeen Gutai artists. In the same year, Tapié and the Japanese critic Haga Tōre published a hardcover book, Continuité et avant-garde au Japon, which included illustrations of Gutai paintings, installations, performances, and outdoor exhibitions. From the late 1980s until the present, works by Gutai artists, many bearing the label of the International Center of Aesthetic Research, have emerged from European collections onto the art market.
11 Ming Tiampo has written cogently on this issue of Notizie in her groundbreaking analysis of Gutai, Gutai: Decentering Modernism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). English translations of the texts in Notizie: Arti Figurative are included in Barbara Bertozzi and Klaus Wolbert, Gutai: Japanische Avantgarde/Japanese Avant-Garde 1954–1965 (Darmstadt: Mathildenhöhe, 1991), 433–40. English translations of Shimamoto and Motanaga’s texts are also available in Munroe, Gutai: Splendid Playground, 282–83.
12 Pierre Restany, “Le groupe Gutai où le Japon précurseur,” in Xxème Siècle, no. 46, Paris, September 1976, translated into German and English in Bertozzi and Wolbert, Gutai: Japanische Avantgarde, 111–15.
13 Antoni Tàpies, “L’art japonais et le culte de ‘l’imperfections,’ in Gutai(Paris: Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, 1999), 11–15. Translation from the French, mine.
14 Bertozzi and Wolbert, Gutai: Japanische Avantgarde, 61–62.
15 Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum of Art, in conversation with the author, April 4, 2013.
16 Tàpies, “L’art japonais,” 13, translation from French, mine. The issue of how Gutai might have affected this debate is further complicated by the fact that Gutai was but one of many intellectual voices contributing to this dialog, and would have complemented the stronger influence of Italian Futurism, Lucio Fontana, and phenomenological philosophy. Moreover, despite the contents and intent of the Notizie journal, Michel Tapié’s interest in Gutai reflected his interest in Art Informel, a term he coined in the early 1950s for what he believed was an international school of gestural abstraction that had dispensed with representation in favor of a direct, existential expression of the human spirit.
Interested in advancing the bona fides of the movement, he promoted Gutai as its Asian avatar, unsullied by Western aesthetics. Recently, the Italian critic and art historian Bruno Corà has argued that in Italy, Gutai was received as an example of the Informel, and that it consequently had no influence on Arte Povera. See Bruno Corà, “Gutai in Europe Starting from Italy,” in Mattijs Visser, ed., Gutai: Painting with Time and Space (Lugano: Museo Cantonale d’Arte, and Milan: Silvano Editoriale, 2010). So it is necessary both to understand the reception of Gutai in the context of discussions of art at the time, and to untangle and analyze the ways its use of materials, installation, and performance, for example, were understood. The quote from Pierre Restany, above, suggests that the reception of Gutai painting as conventional did not preclude an analysis of their performances as groundbreaking. For further analysis of Restany’s understanding of Gutai, and that of the French artist Ben Vautier, see Tiampo, Decentering Modernism, 143–44.
17 Chong et al., From Postwar to Postmodern, 89. The Gutai Manifesto was originally published in Japanese as “Gutai bijutsu sengen” in Geijutsu shinchō [New Trends in Art] 7, no. 12 (December 1956), 202–04.
18 Originally published in January 1955. Retranslated and republished in Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, ed., Fukkokuban Gutai/Gutai Facsimile Edition (Tokyo: Geika Shoin, 2010), English language supplement, 9. Ming Tiampo has written extensively and insightfully on Yoshihara’s understanding of art, most recently in her essay “Please draw freely,” in Munroe, Gutai: Splendid Playground.
19 Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, ed., Arte Povera (London: Phaidon, 1999), 25. There is a parallel between this idea and Gutai’s interest in the direct experiences between man and matter as means to self-actualization; however, Arte Povera artists seem more interested in process than matter per se. Christov-Bakargiev argues that their interest in perception as the moment when the self and the world connect derives from the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It is interesting to note that Tanaka’s Work (Bell) is a superlative example of Merleau-Ponty’s ideas—although she was, I believe, unaware of his thinking. The mental processing of the bell’s sound is what allows those who hear it to situate themselves in the world.
20 Michelangelo Pistoletto, “The Minus Objects,” in Carlos Basualdo, ed., Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956–1974 (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2010), 324. Originally published in Michelangelo Pistoletto, “Gli oggetti in meno,” in Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat. (Genoa: Galleria La Bertesca, 1966).

VIDEO TOUR

EXHIBITION INTRODUCTION

ARTE POVERA AND MONO-HA

GUTAI

JIRO TAKAMATSU

KISHIO SUGA, HITOSHI NOMURA, AND SUSUMU KOSHIMIZU

PIERO MANZONI, ALBERTO BURRI, AND ENRICO CASTELLANI

ARTE POVERA: PART 1

ARTE POVERA: PART 2

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s presents connections between the diverse work of artists from two geographic locations, Italy and Japan, during the postwar period. Curated by Allan Schwartzman, Director of the Rachofsky Collection, Parallel Views introduces a critical collection history and articulates the inspiration for exploring the interrelationships... View Publication

Parallel Views

Artists

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Tomatsu","link":"https:\/\/thewarehousedallas.org\/artists\/shomei-tomatsu\/","lName":"Tomatsu","sortBy":"last","artwork":"[{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2082\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2082\"}]","categories":"[{\"term_id\":66,\"name\":\"Post-war Japanese\",\"slug\":\"post-war-japanese\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":66,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":33,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"4\"}]","collections":"[{\"term_id\":63,\"name\":\"The Rachofsky Collection\",\"slug\":\"the-rachofsky-collection\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":63,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_collection\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":228,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"0\"}]","type":"array"},{"name":"Chiyu Uemae","link":"https:\/\/thewarehousedallas.org\/artists\/chiyu-uemae\/","lName":"Uemae","sortBy":"last","artwork":"[{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2118\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2118\"},{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2116\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2116\"},{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2120\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2120\"},{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2110\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2110\"},{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2114\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2114\"},{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2112\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2112\"}]","categories":"[{\"term_id\":66,\"name\":\"Post-war Japanese\",\"slug\":\"post-war-japanese\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":66,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":33,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"4\"},{\"term_id\":10,\"name\":\"Gutai\",\"slug\":\"gutai\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":10,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":16,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"5\"}]","collections":"[{\"term_id\":63,\"name\":\"The Rachofsky Collection\",\"slug\":\"the-rachofsky-collection\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":63,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_collection\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":228,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"0\"}]","type":"array"},{"name":"Tsuruko Yamazaki","link":"https:\/\/thewarehousedallas.org\/artists\/tsuruko-yamazaki\/","lName":"Yamazaki","sortBy":"last","artwork":"[{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2188\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2188\"},{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2190\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2190\"}]","categories":"[{\"term_id\":66,\"name\":\"Post-war Japanese\",\"slug\":\"post-war-japanese\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":66,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":33,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"4\"},{\"term_id\":10,\"name\":\"Gutai\",\"slug\":\"gutai\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":10,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":16,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"5\"}]","collections":"[{\"term_id\":63,\"name\":\"The Rachofsky Collection\",\"slug\":\"the-rachofsky-collection\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":63,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_collection\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":228,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"0\"}]","type":"array"},{"name":"Katsuro Yoshida","link":"https:\/\/thewarehousedallas.org\/artists\/katsuro-yoshida\/","lName":"Yoshida","sortBy":"last","artwork":"[{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2208\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2208\"}]","categories":"[{\"term_id\":66,\"name\":\"Post-war Japanese\",\"slug\":\"post-war-japanese\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":66,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":33,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"4\"},{\"term_id\":11,\"name\":\"Mono-ha\",\"slug\":\"mono-ha\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":11,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":7,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"6\"}]","collections":"[{\"term_id\":63,\"name\":\"The Rachofsky Collection\",\"slug\":\"the-rachofsky-collection\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":63,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_collection\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":228,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"0\"}]","type":"array"},{"name":"Jiro Yoshihara","link":"https:\/\/thewarehousedallas.org\/artists\/jiro-yoshihara\/","lName":"Yoshihara","sortBy":"last","artwork":"[{\"value\":\"post:crb_artwork:2224\",\"type\":\"post\",\"subtype\":\"crb_artwork\",\"id\":\"2224\"}]","categories":"[{\"term_id\":66,\"name\":\"Post-war Japanese\",\"slug\":\"post-war-japanese\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":66,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":33,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"4\"},{\"term_id\":10,\"name\":\"Gutai\",\"slug\":\"gutai\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":10,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_category\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":16,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"5\"}]","collections":"[{\"term_id\":63,\"name\":\"The Rachofsky Collection\",\"slug\":\"the-rachofsky-collection\",\"term_group\":0,\"term_taxonomy_id\":63,\"taxonomy\":\"crb_artist_collection\",\"description\":\"\",\"parent\":0,\"count\":228,\"filter\":\"raw\",\"term_order\":\"0\"}]","type":"array"}]

EDUCATION PACKET

Education Packet Contents

List of Artists in the Installation
Text on Art Movements/Groups: Arte Povera, Gutai, and Mono-ha
Technical Manifesto [excerpt], Lucio Fontana, 1951
Free Dimension, Piero Manzoni, 1959
Arte Povera – Im spazio, Germano Celant, 1967
The Gutai Manifesto, Jiro Yoshihara, 1956
Foreshadowings and Premonitions: Mono-ha, Lee Ufan, 2001

Suggested Readings

Chong, Doryun. From Postwar to Postmodern: Art in Japan 1945-1989: Primary Documents. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012. Print

Chong, Doryun, Michio Hayashi, Mika Yoshitake, Miryam Sas, Yuri Mitsuda, Masatoshi Nakajima, and Nancy Lim. Tokyo, 1955-1970: A New Avant-garde. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012. Print.

Christov-Bakargiev, Carolyn. Arte Povera. London: Phaidon, 1999. Print.

Flood, Richard, and Frances Morris. Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera, 1962-1972. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2001. Print.

Petersens, Magnus Af. Explosion! Måleri Som Handling / Painting as Action. London: Koenig, 2012. Print.

Schimmel, Paul, and Nicholas Cullinan. Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962. New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2012. Print.

Tiampo, Ming, and Alexandra Munroe. Gutai: Splendid Playground. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2013. Print.

Yoshitake, Mika, Lisa Gabrielle. Mark, and Jane Hyun. Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha. Los Angeles: Blum & Poe, 2012. Print.