Text by Dominique Stella
This book celebrates Shozo Shimamoto’s first solo debut and exhibition held in New York City. Mentored by Jiro Yoshihara before the beginning of his art career, Shimamoto soon emerged as one of Japan’s key figures in the avant-garde art movement of the 1950s. The Gutai art movement was Japan’s artistic response to the aftermath of World War II and in the recovering environment of the country; the art movement provided an artistic outlet that channeled the violence of war act experiences into a flourishing and new creativitiy. Shimamoto’s aim was to embark upon a new kind of art that was centered on performance and the physical involvement of the artist in the creation of their work. One of Shimamoto’s most important performances, Bottle Crash, exemplifies the spirit of Gutai in its capturing of the raw energy the artist throws into his work. By throwing glass and plastic containers full of vibrant-colored paint against a canvas below his feet, the smashing of the vessels created a sea of abstract forms that integrate the detritus such as broken glass from his performance. This creates paintings that function both as stand-alone artworks and also as performance ephemera. Critics have compared the style similar to the drip paintings by Jackson Pollock though whereas Pollock’s work symbolizes the hegemony of America and its political and cultural spheres, Shimamoto’s work represents a blending of the boundaries between traditional painting techniques and the then-new medium of performance to create evocative art pieces. Shimamoto carved his own place in art history during a key time of cultural globalization and cross-pollination, and his work showcases the new concept of painting in a changing world. Shimamoto has been exhibited on a global scale and has been featured in the collections of the National Museum of Modern Art in Rome, the Tokyo Contemporary Art Museum, and the Tate Modern.
Dominique Stella is an art historian specializing in contemporary art. She worked previously as the director Japanese Royal Palace for Contemporary Art and was a curator of various exhibitions at the museum.