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. A Shiraga retrospective exhibition will take place at Dallas Museum of Art in 2015.
ArtlystArt Basel’s fifth edition in Hong Kong has closed with encouraging sales recorded across all levels of the market. This demonstrates a continued demand for high-quality works by the world’s leading international collectors and institutions. Attendance at this year’s show, whose Lead Partner is UBS, rose to nearly 80,000 – due to the introduction of evening ticket sales and improved crowd control measures – and attracted leading members of the international art world. Many observers felt that this edition had built on the show’s strong history to attain new levels – Art Basel in Hong Kong now not only stands as the premier fair in Asia but also as one of the leading fairs worldwide. Read More
ARTSY EDITORIAL by Alexxa GotthardtFergus McCaffrey’s elegant booth mingles the practices of two American artists who came of age in the 1960s and happen to be great friends. The works of Marcia Hafif and Richard Nonas, however, differ greatly—and that’s precisely what makes this presentation so compelling. Hafif’s hyper-saturated canvases featuring curvaceous forms that resemble bodily contours (she calls these her “Pop-Minimal” paintings) draw you in. Nonas’s more subtle patinaed steel sculptures cover the floor. They resemble architectural forms or ritualized objects; given Nonas’s early years as an anthropologist, they just might be inspired by them, too. Read More