YASUO SUMI: Works On Paper, 1955 – 2011

NEW YORK—De Buck Gallery is pleased to announce Yasuo Sumi: Works on paper 1955 – 2011, on view from February 1st to February 24th at 545 West 23rd Street. The exhibition will present a selection of works on paper by one of the most active Gutai members, Yasuo Sumi. This exhibit follows earlier presentations at De Buck Gallery by Gutai founder Shozo Shimamoto, and reflects the commitment of the gallery to highlight the historical significance of the Gutai movement and its revolutionary artistic concepts.

“Man by nature has a great power, and when this power is expressed with desperation, absence of seriousness and irresponsibility, it becomes the manifestation of his true form.” – Yasuo Sumi

Yasuo Sumi, (Osaka 1925, Itami 2015) had no artistic education when he started painting in 1954. His early experiments with paper and calligraphy reflect the social and political reality he was exposed to at the time. Sumi joined the Gutai association in 1955 and from then onwards he participated in all Gutai’s exhibitions. The new social and cultural realities in post-war Japan inspired the movement to deeply revolutionize Japanese art. By 1958 the international avant-garde recognized the Gutai movement, following numerous intellectual and cultural exchanges monitored amongst others by Art Informel pioneer Georges Mathieu and art critic Michel Tapié. The group became famous for their paintings and sculptures that rejected traditional art forms, and for their large-scale multimedia installations, performances and happenings that emphasized the relationship between body and matter.

Sumi became largely recognized for his unusual and impulsive method of painting with the objective to exclude the idea of painting itself. By inserting an unusual object between the hand of the artist and the image’s location, the artist’s manual skill or talent becomes irrelevant, leaving space only for the indifference of the action or style. Sumi would spread ink and paint down using soroban (Japanese abacus), bangasa (Japanese paper umbrella), geta (the typical Japanese wooden sandals), or even a large vibrating device, as an extension of his body in an effort to create compelling textures and energetic patterns. His works remind the viewer of the tension of life in movement, oscillating between violent anarchy and quiet headspace. His expressive and rapid gestures, as seen in his performances, produced spontaneous and unintended splatters of paint, which are quite characteristic of Sumi’s personality. According to Shimamoto, Sumi was a quiet almost cryptic artist, preferring not to think about the art but rather allowing the art to happen in a brief impulse, void of any thoughts.

After the disbandment of the Gutai group, Sumi went on to continue his artwork locally in his garden in Itami, and he became a member of the Art Club, represented by Taro Okamoto. In 1993 and in 2007 his performances were showcased at the Venice Biennale. In 2008 Yasuo Sumi performed at the Museo Magi’900 in Bologna, where he “activated” in his signature style a large grid of sheets of canvas on the floor. Today, Sumi’s work has been showcased around the world including in the Guggenheim Museum’s landmark exhibition in 2013 “Gutai: A Splendid Playground,” in the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, and in Osaka’s National Museum of Art.

With the Gutai movement earning critical recognition in recent years for its innovative art-making and creative spirit that emerged from the ashes of war, the exhibition “Yasuo Sumi: Works On Paper, 1955 – 2011” pays tribute to the spirit of the collective and individual genius of the movement.

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De Buck Gallery New York


February 1, 2018 - February 24, 2018


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