Gutai: Splendid Playground

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The Gutai Art Association was founded by Yoshihara Jiro in 1954 in the cosmopolite town of Ashiya, near Osaka. The group spanned two generations, totaling 59 artists and is one of the most radical movements in postwar Japanese art history. Published in conjunction with the first United States museum retrospective ever devoted to Gutai, exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Gutai: Splendid Playground surveys the influential Japanese collective and artistic movement. This exhibition catalogue aims to demonstrate the range of bold and innovative creativity present in the avant-garde movement, to examine the aesthetic strategies in the cultural, social and political context of postwar Japan and the West, and to further establish Gutai in an expanded, transnational history and critical discourse of modern art. Organized thematically and chronologically to explore Gutai’s unique approach to materials, concepts, process, performativity and enviroment, this publication investigates the group’s radical experimentation across a range of media and styles, and demonstrates how individual artists pushed the limits of what art could be or mean in a post-atomic era. The range includes painting, conceptual art, performance, film, installation art, sound art, interactive art, light art and kinetic art. Illustrating some 120 objects by 25 artists and featuring both iconic Gutai and lesser-known works, Splendid Playground presents a rich survey reflecting new scholarship, especially on “late Gutai” works dating from 1965 to 1972. The bold and innovative catalogue design reflects the unfettered creativity of Gutai. In addition, an extensive appendix features a selection of Gutai artists’ writings, an illustrated chronology, artist biographies and a bibliography.

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Founded in 1954 by artist Yoshihara Jiro ... the Gutai Art Association was intended to connect the avant-garde art of Europe, America, and Japan. A collective of young experimental Japanese artists who gleefully disregarded the boundaries circumscribing traditional artworks, Gutai (defined as concreteness) combined painting and sculpture with film, installation, music, performance and communal happenings in exuberantly unorthodox resolutions that still look remarkably fresh. (Lilly Wei Art News)

Gutai... involved time, action, and performance as it sought a "new autonomous space" and redefined "picturing" as a whole body experience (in the artists' words). The freshness is multiplied when you consider the propriety of Japan's hierarchical traditional culture and decades of oppressive militaristic government. (Janet Koplos Art in America)

The charismatic Yoshihara established Gutai as the most important expressionof Japanese art during the postwar period. (Barbara Pollack Time Out Magazine)

"a mind-shifting exhibition about Japan's best-known postwar art movement... It displays 100 works of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation art, film and performance, supplemented by photomurals and printed matter, all brilliantly interwoven... Accompanied by a terrific catalog, their effort should permanently dislodge any notion of postwar modernism as a strictly Western phenomenon...Gutai: Splendid Playground" is a breath of fresh air. " (Roberta Smith The New York Times)

For the group that officially called itself the Gutai Art Association, being one step ahead was always something of a fine art. (Joan Kee Artforum)

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