The Splatter Artist Who Influenced Japan’s Avant-Garde

By Sophia Callahan | the creators project

The work of late artist Shozo Shimamoto splashes with color, fragments of plastic, and broken glass. Like Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and Yves Klein’s body paintings, Shozo Shimamoto’s Bottle Crash works are benchmarks in the lineage of action and abstract painting. Now, a new show at De Buck Gallery features the works of the late Shimamoto, his solo debut in New York City and with the gallery. 

Shimamoto is perhaps best known for filling glass and plastic bottles with paint and throwing them against canvases, resulting in both performances and paintings. The works shown at De Buck gallery are Shimamoto’s later works—from 1997 to 2008—that were created in Italy, China, and Japan.

Inspired by the 2013 Guggenheim show after his death, Gutai: Splendid Playground, gallery owner, David De Buck, has been working on curating this show for over a year. “Shimamoto started his career doing Bottle Crashes in the 50s and 60s, then in the 70s and 80s did other things, but in the 90s, he came back to this technique after he was invited to the Venice Biennale to perform these Bottle Crashes. That was my starting point in this exhibition, the Biennale performance.”

Shimamoto, along with artist Jiro Yoshihara, founded Gutai, the radical Japanese artist group that was one of the first internationally-recognized artist collectives. The duo worked with the 59 avant-garde artists that made up Gutai from 1954 to 1971, offering “an artistic solution that channeled the violence of the war experience into a flourishing creativity,” according to the gallery. During the post-war recovery period in Japan, Yoshihara urged the artist group to “do what no one has done before.” This motto resulted in experimental works that pushed the boundaries of painting, installation, and the then-emergent medium of performance art.

“They all wanted to break the traditional brush and move more into action painting and painting a different style,” explains De Buck, “so Shimamoto actually threw vessels, glass bottles, cups filled with paint onto the canvas.”


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