/ Shozo Shimamoto:Across The Borderlands of Art

Artist

“More than anything else, I find stimulation in the materialization of an unpredictable expression. The biggest meaning of this phenomenon might just be Zen.”-Shozo Shimamoto

The Gutai group was founded in 1954 as a moment of synthesis of ferments that cross the post-war Japanese art. Central figure of this process is Jiro Yoshihara, a painter and most of all a cultural animator, who brings together the most vital young forces of Japanese painting. Shozo Shimamoto is one of the founders of the group: indeed he is the one who baptizes it with a term, Gutai, which loosely means concreteness, in opposition to abstraction. The group of young artists led by the master initiates a process of radical rethinking of the artistic and pictorial tradition in particular, having as reference the informal practices but also forcing them in a direction of cancellation and annihilation. The group thus enters into relation with the western avant-gardes, and in many cases turns to be a precursor of many experiences carried out by European and American artists years later. The case of Shozo Shimamoto is emblematic from this point of view, because he is among the first, in the fifties, to betray the painting in the name of something else, in the name of a pictorial event.

This presentation of works by Shozo Shimamoto, carried out with the cooperation of the Shozo Shimamoto Association & the Morra Foundation, Naples, Italy, which features in its collection the largest collection of the works by the Japanese artist, consists in three different types of works, to give to see the evolution and the process of Shimamoto art from the early times until the last part of his life where he performed the most spectacular performances in Italy organized by the Morra Foundation, one of the very first pioneer art centre dedicated to the performing visual arts.

The core of the project reflects this crucial passage and involves the will to overcome a logistic necessity of cutting the very large canvases – used by Shimamoto in many of his Bottle Crash performances – into smaller pieces, more manageable and easier to stretch on canvas in subsequent moments. This is an attempt, for this special presentation, to bring back the oeuvre as it was initially thought; to get back together the multiple scattered pieces of an enormous black and white canvas, and give to the spectator a suggestion of resemblance to the original magnitude and scale of Shozo Shimamoto’s endeavour. A large selection of paintings are presented here, starting by the beautiful Nyotaku series, and followed by the most famous series of monochroms and bottle crash paintings, coming from the legendary public performances of the Gutai leader.

Finally will be presented a work on film which is an extraordinary experience of anticipation of the American avant-gardes. This seven minutes experiments sees Shimamoto, already during the Fifties, acting manually on the film, adding colour to the photograms and even manipulating them until partial breakage. These features make this a very special piece as it is a powerful precursor of western experimental film masters who started manual film modifications several years later.

The exhibition presented by ALIEN Art in cooperation with the Shozo Shimamoto Association & the Morra Foundation, Naples, Italy, and is curated by Yaman Shao, and Jérôme Neutres, who is former Director of Strategy at the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais.

Painting with glass bottles of paint, the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition, Ohara Hall Tokyo October 1956 © Associazione Shozo Shimamoto

Shozo Shimamoto, Palazzo Ducale Genova, 2008 © A. Mardegan

Shozo Shimamoto, Un'arma per la Pace, Piazza Dante Napoli, 2006, ph. Fabio Donato © Fondazione Morra

Ana esquisse, 1962, 36.2x51.2 cm, Nishinomiya, Japan, Hole Esquisse, hole on paper, mixed media.

Nyotaku-Uzumaki 20, 90s-2009, 100x73 cm, Nishinomiya, Japan, mixed, enamel paint and Indian ink on Japanese paper fixed on wooden panel

Punta Campanella 47, 2008, 134x98 cm, performance with cups, acrylic on light canvas

RED 2, 2009, 168x139 cm, Nishinomiya Yacht Harbour, Bottle Crash, acrylic and broken glass on canvas

BLUE 11, 2009, 159.8 x 206.7 cm, Nishinomiya Yacht Harbour, Bottle Crash, acrylic and broken glass on canvas

BLACK 12, 2009, 154x128 cm, Nishinomiya Yacht Harbour, Bottle Crash, acrylic and broken glass on canvas

Punta Campanella 40, 2008, 209x268 cm, Performance with Loco cups and bottles, acrylic on light canvas

Shozo Shimamoto, Un'arma per la Pace, Piazza Dante Napoli, 2006, ph. Fabio Donato © Fondazione Morra

Shozo Shimamoto, Performance with Coups, Palazzo dello Spagnuolo Napoli 2008, ph. A. Mardegan, © Fondazione Morra

Shozo Shimamoto, Vento d'Oriente, Performance Bottle Crash, Punta Campanella 2008, ph. A. Mardegan, © Fondazione Morra

Shozo Shimamoto, Samurai, acrobata dello sguardo, Performance Bottle Crash, Palazzo Ducale, Genova 2008, ph. A. Mardegan, © Fondazione Morra