Image above: Bottle Crash in Venice 14, 2007
NEW YORK, NY – De Buck Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition of Gutai artist Shozo Shimamoto’s late works. The exhibition marks Shimamoto’s solo debut at De Buck Gallery, and in New York City. The works will be on view at the gallery from May 7 to July 3, 2015, with an opening reception to be held on May 7 from 6-8 PM. A catalogue with an essay by Dominique Stella will be published to accompany the exhibition.
As a founder of the Gutai Art movement alongside his mentor Jiro Yoshihara, Shozo Shimamoto emerged as a key figure in the Japanese avant-garde by the mid-1950s. In the recovering environment of post-war Japan, Gutai offered an artistic solution that channeled the violence of the war experience into a flourishing creativity. With Yoshihara’s instructions to make something unprecedented in art, Shimamoto and his comrades embarked upon a new sort of art that relied heavily on performance and the bodily involvement of the artist in its creation.
One of Shimamoto’s most important contributions to this early Gutai period was his 1956 Bottle Crash performance. The works included in the current exhibition, dating from 1999 to 2008, largely draw from the series that evolved from this initial performance, which the artist first recreated at the 1993 Venice Biennale. He continued to work in this manner until his death in 2013. In these Bottle Crash performances, Shimamoto threw glass and plastic containers full of vibrant paint against a canvas laid at his feet, smashing the vessels and creating a sea of abstract forms integrating detritus, such as broken glass, from the performances. Thus, the paintings function both as stand-alone artworks and as performance ephemera. At first glance, the finished works strongly resemble those of Jackson Pollock, and there is indeed a connection in the gestural nature of these two artists. However, whereas Pollock’s work symbolizes the hegemony of the United States politically and culturally in the years following World War II, Shimamoto’s work represents a crossing of the boundaries between traditional painting and the then-young medium of performance to create evocative works of art.
Despite various aesthetic and theoretical affinities between Shimamoto (and Gutai more broadly), and international movements including Abstract Expressionism, Zero, Fluxus and Allan Kaprow’s Happenings, Gutai stands alone. As a key member of the movement, Shozo Shimamoto carved out a place in art history during a key juncture of cultural globalization and cross-pollination. With its strong emphasis on the physical involvement of the artist and the issue of chance in the creation of the work, Shimamoto’s work exemplifies a new concept of painting in a changing world.
Shozo Shimamoto was born in Osaka, Japan in 1928. Too young to fight in the second World War, Shimamoto began working under the tutelage of Jiro Yoshihara in the late 1940s. He worked as a member of the Gutai group until 1971, and thereafter became a key figure in the Mail Art movement. Also recognized for his pacifist activities, Shozo Shimamoto was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. His work has been exhibited in a number of important museum exhibitions, including at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), the Modern Museet (Stockholm) and the Jeu de Paume (Paris), and is included in the permanent collections of the Tate Modern (London), the National Museum of Modern Art (Rome), and the Tokyo Contemporary Art Museum. Shimamoto died in Osaka in 2013 at the age of 85.