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Kazuo Shiraga, Untitled (1959)


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
Kazuo Shiraga is a member of the avant-garde movement in Japan known as the Gutai Art Association. Established in the summer of 1954, the group sought to create a new art "never known until now." Gutai, which means "embodiment," has similarities to the Action Painting of New York in the 1950s, but is uniquely influenced by its own time and place--postwar Japan. Coming out of that country's surrender in World War II, Gutai practitioners desired an art free of social criticism or political implication. Their artistic process combined action and performance with painting. Unlike Happenings in Europe and America, Gutai events were meant to result in the creation of sculptures and paintings.

During the first Gutai exhibition in 1955, Shiraga dove into a pile of mud and wrestled, kicked, and thrashed the clay mound to create an artwork sculpted by physical action. In this painting, Shiraga used his body as a tool--this time a large paint brush. Swinging from a hanging rope, he used his bare feet to apply paint onto a canvas on the floor. The finished work depicts his random spins, swirls, and slips.

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Type: Commentary, curriculum resource
Source: Text for Kazuo Shiraga, Untitled (1959), from the curriculum guide So, Why Is This Art?, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2002.
Rights: Copyright 2002 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009