Kazuo Shiraga

Born in Amagasaki, Japan, in 1924, Shiraga cofounded the Zero Society (Zero-kai) with Saburō Murakami and Akira Kanayama in 1952. In 1955, he joined the legendary collective Gutai (Gutai Art Association) and made a series of revolutionary works that the art historian Reiko Tomii calls “performance paintings,” including Challenging Mud (1955), in which he wrestled with several tons of mud, and Red Logs (1955), a structure made of wood logs that Shiraga hacked into with an ax. His distinct and inimitable style of foot painting emerged the year before, in 1954.

Aware of Jackson Pollock since 1951, Shiraga—like his contemporaries Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Yves Klein—sought to create work that moved beyond the vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. He succeeded in creating paintings of great innovation with his unique style, which involved sliding, spinning, and swirling his feet in mounds of oil paint on large sheets of paper and canvas laid on the floor while clinging to a rope suspended from the ceiling. By the time of his 1957 “performance painting” on stage, Sanbasō-Super Modern, Shiraga was among the most avant-garde artists working anywhere, and his work was drawing international attention.

Shiraga’s work was first introduced to the American public under the auspices of a Gutai exhibition held at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, in September 1958. His work was dismissed as derivative and his great originality went unrecognized, in what amounted to an extraordinary misreading. However, having realized a means so unmistakably his own, Shiraga continued to refine and rework his signature style for the remainder of his long career, creating challenging paintings of visceral energy and visual power.

Shiraga’s six-decade career proved enduringly provocative and successful both in Japan and in Europe. Until recently, however, his work was largely overlooked in the United States. It has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2012–13; Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012–13; and Gutai: Splendid Playground, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2013. Solo museum retrospectives have taken place at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Ville de Toulouse, 1993; Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe, 2001; and Yokosuka Museum of Art, 2009; and Dallas Museum of Art, 2015.

Selected Artworks

October 13, 2017

FIAC 2017: Top galleries in “Avenue Winston Churchill, On Site”

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FIAC 2017, the International Art Fair exhibiting the best Contemporary Art galleries of the world, awaits its grand opening on October 19 in Paris. This year FIAC will have two sub-sections, Avenue Winston Churchill and Petit Palais, showcasing outdoor works featuring seminal works by the most prominent galleries all over the world. These two sub-sections fall in FIAC’s new sub division of “On Site” that was introduced last year. Read More
September 5, 2017

Marcia Hafif: Upcoming Museum Shows in Switzerland

Opening at Kunsthaus Baselland: Thursday 14th September, 6:30 PM

The MARCIA HAFIF exhibition is created in collaboration with the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (MARCIA HAFIF: September 16-January 14, 2018) and the Kunsthaus Baselland in Muttenz (MARCIA HAFIF: September 15–November 12, 2017).
Hafif (b.1929, USA, living in New York and Laguna Beach) is among the pioneers of the 1970s who fundamentally broadened con­ceptions of the practice of painting and under­standing of art per se. Since the 1980s, terms like ‘radical’ have been used to describe Hafif’s work with monochrome painting. The pencil on paper drawings, vertical pencil marks cover­ ing a surface, begun in 1972, led to the ver­tical stroke in paint. Her work in both mediums still continues, fitting within what she calls The Inventory. Each series included in The Inventory develops a single medium using tra­ditional methods and materials for making paint and preparing a ground. Individual works in a series can be larger or smaller, and usually are made with vertical brush­strokes, with which the effects of unmixed colours on a suit­able painting ground are sounded out. Works from the series that may be her most radical will be exhibited at the Kunsthaus Baselland: the Black Paintings (1979/80) in which she found black by layering ultramarine blue and burnt umber. There will also be photographs and films on display.
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