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Kazuo Shiraga

Kazuo Shiraga (Japan, 1924 ? 2008)
Born in 1924, Shiraga Kazuo has long been lauded as one of the most notable members of the Gutai Art group, of which he was a member since 1955. Amongst his Gutai peers, Shiraga was also the artist who received the most exposure intended by Yoshihara’s vision of internationalism, and by 1965, a mere ten years after his initial participation in Gutai, Shiraga’s repertoire of exhibitions already included locations such as Tokyo, New York, Paris, Turin, Amsterdam and Cape town.

Shiraga, whose spellbinding, energetic canvases enthralled the entire world of abstract art and beyond, was an artist who revolutionized the very modes of artistic expression, experimenting with performance art, sculptures and even with mud as a medium. His most favored and significant artistic contributions however, were his foot-paintings.

Each of Shiraga’s paintings pulse with vigor and health, and are outpourings of his strength; but more importantly, each painting represents the artist’s machismo in a traditional sense, perhaps not far from the way one would consider a traditional Samurai’s manhood and power. As Shiraga once said, “I want to paint as though rushing around a battlefield, exerting myself to collapse from exhaustion.” The bold red and pink colours in the current lot on offer undoubtedly capture this sense of virility. The blood-like hues in the paints used immediately bring to mind scenes from the battlefield, and the darker strokes that dissect the piece resemble a warrior’s adept navigation through a field of combat.

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Biography

1946
Shiraga suffers from pneumonia and rheumatic fever and almost dies; he is subsequently confined to bed for six months. Kanayama Akira gives Shiraga two art books by Toyama Usaburo.
1948
Shiraga marries Uemura Fujiko and graduates from Kyoto Municipal School of Painting. He studies with local painter Ito Tsuguro, who encourages him to submit his works to the annual salon of Shin-Seisaku Kyokai (New Production Association).
1951
Yoshihara Jiro views the work of Jackson Pollock at a special room of the Yomiuri Independent Exhibition, when it tours from Tokyo to Osaka; Shiraga also most likely sees the work there.
1952
Genbi, short for Gendai Bijutsu Kondankai (Contemporary Art Discussion Group), is founded. Shiraga and his peers attend its meetings and show in its annual exhibition.
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Shiraga establishes Zero-kai (Zero Society) with Murakami Saburo and kanayama Akira. Tanaka Atsuko joins later.
1953
Shiraga makes his first abstract paintings with a palette knife. Thereafter he adopts the blood-red pigment of crimson lake and begins making paintings directly with his hands and fingers.
1954
Shiraga makes his first foot paintings.
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Shiraga and Murakami hold a two-person exhibition at the Hangkyu Department Store, Osaka. Shiraga’s foot paintings are exhibited in Zero Society’s group exhibition displayed in a store window of the Sogo Department Store, Osaka.
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Gutai Art Association (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) is formed by Yoshihara Jiro. Gutai member Shimamoto Shozo visits Zero Society with an invitation for the leading members to join Gutai.
1955
Kanayama, Murakami, Shiraga and Tanaka join Gutai.
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Yoshihara organizes Experimental Outdoor Modern Art Exhbition to Challenge the Burning Midsummer Sun in Ashiya Park near the Ashiya River.
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1st Gutai Art Exhibition is held at the Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo. Shiraga executes Challenging Mud three times. Shiraga begins to write about his art to contribute to the journal Gutai.
1956
Yoshihara organizes special demonstrations and the exhibition One Day Only Outdoor Exhibition.
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Gutai organizes Outdoor Art Exhibition at Ashiya Park. Shiraga creates his first extant large foot painting on paper.
1957
Gutai Art on the Stage is presented in Osaka and Tokyo. Shiraga presents Sanbaso-Super Modern, dancing on stage; he also shoots arrows at a large canvas.
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After receiving a copy of the journal Gutai, Michel Tapié travels to Japan with Georges Mathieu and Imai Toshimitsu and associates Gutai with his own Art Informel movement.
1958
International Art of a New Era: Informel and Gutai, organized by Tapié and Yoshihara opens in Osaka and tours four Japanese cities. Tapié turns the Gutai portion of the exhibition into a group show at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York. It tours to several museum venues in the US and Canada.
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Shiraga signs a contract with Tapié, consigning works to him for sale in Europe.
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At the suggestion of Tapié, Shiraga starts to paint on canvas and sign his name in kanji(Japanese characters). He also begins to use the names of the Suikoden warriors to identity his paintings, which had previously been left untitled merely as Work.
1966-1970
Production of large-scale paintings decreases markedly. Abandons foot painting and produces a number of “fan paintings” and “squeeze paintings”, in the latter of which he makes use of his feet and a wood rod or plate.
1971
Ceases painting completely and begins training at the Tendai-sect Buddhist temple Enryakuji on Mount Hiei. He is given the monk name Sodo (Simple Path)
1972
Gutai disbands.
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Resumes painting and begins experimenting with extremely liquid alkyd paint.
1973
Uses a predominantly black-and-white palette and alkyd paint and produces a lyrically explosive group of new paintings. His titles further diversity to include references to history and Esoteric Buddhism.
1986
Solo exhibition at Galerie Stadler, Paris Japon des Avant-gardes 1910-1970 at Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
2002
Awarded the Osaka Art Price.

Gutai