Alexandra Munroe and Ming Tiampo’s “Gutai: Splendid Playground” may just be the best show in town. It is an immersive, coherent and spirited exhibition of Japanese postwar art.
The art movement Gutai (“concreteness”) originated as a reaction to the trauma of World War II. In the mid-1950s, young Japanese artists from the southern town of Ashiya who had seen Jackson Pollock’s paintings started making artworks that were as kinetic as they were minimal. The work was a celebration of individuality and play, of new technology and the material innovation that drove it—Gutai loved reflective materials and electric lights. A Dadaist, antiauthoritarian spirit abounded in the movement, and is pervasive at the Guggenheim: paintings were made by things like drawing machines, toy cars and vibrating devices. Yuko Nasaka’s Work (1960) looks like turntables of automotive lacquer. Films on view document the Gutai festivals—outdoor, interactive, public events in which playful displays of tactile materials hung in pine trees and artists burst through paper paintings, laughing. Fifty-nine artists ultimately claimed affiliation with the movement over its 18-year history. Read More