Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gutai: Splendid Playground, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC 
February 15–May 8, 2013

The Guggenheim commissioned the artist to recreate Motonaga Sadamasa’s magisterial Work (Water) for the rotunda, where he hangs common, polyethylene tubes of varying widths filled with brightly-colored water between the rotunda levels, making giant brushstrokes out of catenaries in the open air that catch the sunlight (Work [Water], 1956/2011).

Guggenheim website

The Gutai group (具体; means "Embodiment") is the first radical, post-war group in Japan. Founded by Jiro Yoshihara in Osaka, Japan, 1954, in response to the reactionary artistic context of the time and  involved in large-scale multimedia environments, performances and theatrical events.

Yoshihara wrote the manifesto for the Gutai group in 1956. The full text of the "Gutai Manifesto" is available in English at the website of Japan's Ashiya City Museum of Art & History [2]. Among its preoccupations, the manifesto expresses a fascination with the beauty that arises when things become damaged or decayed. The process of damage or destruction is celebrated as a way of revealing the inner "life" of a given material or object:

"Yet what is interesting in this respect is the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries. This is described as the beauty of decay, but is it not perhaps that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics? The fact that the ruins receive us warmly and kindly after all, and that they attract us with their cracks and flaking surfaces, could this not really be a sign of the material taking revenge, having recaptured its original life?...." [3]