Shozo Shimamoto Answers Gutai’s Call at De Buck Gallery



The current exhibition at Chelsea’s De Buck Gallery features a posthumous selection of Shozo Shimamoto’s riotously colorful paintings, which are vibrant and captivating. What a simple glance doesn’t tell you is how, exactly, they were made.

With help from an assistant, the artist created these striking action works by throwing bottles onto a recumbent canvas.

“He pre-organized the bottles or the colors per painting, but the order of it, in how it would be thrown onto the canvas, was random,” gallery owner David De Buck told artnet News in the video above.

“He is certainly someone who could be compared to Jackson Pollock,” De Buck allowed. “They both have a certain ritual as to how they make the paintings.”

Shimamoto was a cofounder of Japan’s postwar Gutai movement, where artists responded to the violence of World War II via action-based works where painting was a performance. “If you want to do something, that means you are alive. If you do it, then that proves that you are alive,” Shiraga Kazuo writes in “The Baby and Milk, or Proof of Life,” inGutai, Munroe and Tiampo. 

Shimamoto stands apart from the Abstract Expressionists, thanks to his prominent place in Japan’s foremost avant-garde collective. New Yorkers got a taste of the movement two years ago at the Guggenheim’s show, “Gutai: Splendid Playground.” Shimamoto joined the group in its infancy in 1955, when he was first making his “Bottle Crash” works. He died in 2013, and was able to see Gutai’s rise to power in the years between.

For the artist, the creation of each piece was just as much an artwork as the finished product. The artist held performances across Japan and Europe, painting in his unique and dramatic style, with help from a trusted paint-spattered assistant.

The artist participated in the 1993 Venice Biennale, and in the 1990s, Shimamoto began revisiting his past works, creating the same type of gestural pieces that defined his early career. The De Buck exhibition is made up these later works, which show the vitality of the artist in an age of globalization.

By Sarah Cascone


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