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This month, Artforum shines a light on the art of postwar Japan—and its contemporary repercussions. On the occasion of the major New York exhibitions “Gutai: Splendid Playground,” opening this month at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and “Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde,” at the Museum of Modern Art, six distinguished contributors reflect on this vital field marked by violence, guilt, and repression as much as by technological and capitalist utopias, examining some of its little-known but no less seminal participants.
· A special portfolio reveals previously unpublished works by Tsuruko Yamazaki—one of the longest-standing members of the Gutai group. Art historian Joan Kee introduces the Ashiya-based artist, whose resolute investigation into chemical and physical transformation via materials such as tin, vinyl, acrylic, and mirrors continues today.
“Yamazaki understood, perhaps better than any of her colleagues, the generative possibilities of thinking about visual manifestation and substance together. Objects were always as they appeared, and herein lay the challenge.”
· For nearly a decade, Ei Arakawa has staged performances with startling brio, his makeshift sets, friendly throngs, and offhand gestures signaling a type of eccentric event that won’t be limited by art’s normal viewing structures. But the New York–based artist also continually revisits the global experimental art that has come before him, from Fluxus to Gutai to Jikken Kōbō. Curator Catherine Wood explores Arakawa’s reenactments—and unmoorings—of this history.
“The artist, Arakawa knows, can no longer simply be present.”
· Akasegawa Genpei and Hi-Red Center advanced their own brand of “Capitalist Realism” in 1960s Tokyo. Historian William Marotti recounts their direct disruption of circuits of exchange, beyond the limits of the artwork.
“A piece of ‘fake’ money is more of a problem for power than a Molotov cocktail—and the implications of that fact are what Hi-Red Center went on to explore.”
· Plus: Akira Mizuta Lippit looks at the nationalization and denationalization of Japanese film; artist Norio Imai gives his personal account of Gutai’s embrace of technology; and Steven Ridgely lays out the prescient, countercultural graphic design of Tadanori Yokoo.
“Yokoo torqued the industry of perceptual manipulation toward his own ends—with an insistence that we are immersed in commerce from the start.”
· Also: Jessica Morgan reconsiders Pop as a global phenomenon; Achim Hochdörfer registers the physical impact of Wade Guyton‘s survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Nicholas Cullinan measures the Whitechapel Gallery’s Mel Bochner retrospective; and David Velasco exchanges “1000 Words” with former members of Art Club 2000 about their 1992–93 photo series “Commingle”—to be reprinted for the New Museum’s forthcoming 1993 survey show—and the New York art world as they knew it.
· And: Mira Schor puts to rest the art criticism of the late Robert Hughes and Hilton Kramer; John Beeson scripts an “Openings” on Berlin-based artist Gerry Bibby; Christian Kravagna answers Kerry James Marshall‘s “Who’s Afraid of Red, Black and Green” at the Secession, Vienna; Tom Gunning imagines the future of film spectatorship according to Gabriele Pedullà‘s In Broad Daylight; Martin Jay eulogizes Eric J. Hobsbawm‘s art-historical contributions; Dennis Lim says yes to Chilean director Pablo Larraín‘s newest film, No; Kellie Jones and Robert Farris Thompson discuss a diachronic approach to the study of the African diaspora; and LA-based filmmaker Grant Singer charts his Top Ten.