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Shozo Shimamoto    Mar 16 - May 5, 2012


Shozo Shimamoto
March 16 - May 5, 2012
Opening: March 14 and 15, 2012 --- 6pm-9pm

Click here to watch the artist create one of his paintings

Initially, Shozo Shimamoto started from the perspective of painting, but he was permanently seeking a means to free himself of a purely pictorial context. Since the beginning of Gutai, he was able to build up a strong reputation as an experimental artist working in different media, exploring concepts of time and space, while simultaneously focusing on his mechanistic methods. He perforated canvases, shot paint with cannons on large sheets of vinyl, smashed glass bottles filled with paint on canvases, realized sculptures from razorblades, scratched and colorized films, and made violent and destructive installations with light and music for the theatre stage. In the course of his work, Shimamoto has independently obtained results which normally only more than one artist could achieve.

His works are visual records of his acts, or as he called them: performances of destruction. Mostly executed outside the studio, such as in parks, on a roof or on stage, his works offer an open language as a new way to make energy visible. In his later projects, to realize a new and more "peaceful world" in his view, Shimamoto achieved balance between the sudden violent and the delicate caressing of the (art) world. Despite the fact that it is not ideas themselves that give art depth, without some sort discovery it is certainly impossible to produce something totally new and original. But his oeuvre does not represent originality for its own sake, but rather originality developed slowly, painfully and intuitively, and with consciousness and knowledge. Until now, Shimamoto has been able to refine his methods and he continues working, as spokesman and as one of the last living artists of the Gutai group.

Shozo Shimamoto was not only the co-founder of Gutai and the artist that bestowed the name of the group; he was also editor and publisher of theinternational Gutai journal, printed in both Japanese and English. By distributing the journal to artists, critics, journalists and curators worldwide, Yoshihara and Shimamoto wanted to establish an international common ground where arts of the East and West would influence each other. Shimamoto played a major role in the conception and practice of a communication network that extended to France, the Netherlands, Italy and the United States and reached artists such as Jackson Pollock, Allan Kaprow, Lucio Fontana, Henk Peeters and Yves Klein.

That Shimamoto has been founder and president of the international Mail-Art organization confirms his strong interest in reaching out to the world for a better understanding. But the question if the East influenced the West, or vice versa, as Yoshihara and Shimamoto intended, is still unanswered.

Irritated by the New York press who asked him about the Gutai group, Yves Klein wrote his Chelsea Manifesto in 1962 as a way to repeat his intentions, principles and detail his ideas. He claimed to be the first artist who could bring together immateriality: the void, fire, water, sky architecture and music. That the press would associate his work with that of the Gutai group was incomprehensible in his opinion. He considered the Gutai group to be Ultra Action painters. Even before meeting Yoshihara, destruction was the most important method for Shimamoto. He worked to destroy material and thus to give material a new life. By gluing and drying many layers of newspapers as a cheap replacement of a canvas, he created a brittle surface that under light pressure of a pencil or brush would break and pierce that surface and result in the creation of holes.

Working prior to Fontana, Shimamoto was one the first artists to create a truly immaterial hole in his constructed canvas. This was of great importance to the philosophy of Gutai: it made it possible to represent the unseen immaterial and thus reveal the void. The concept of immateriality was not only reserved to Japanese culture. Western artists read the publication of the Japanese-American writer Daisetsu T. Suzuki about Zen with great interest. In the early 1950s, Lucio Fontana pierced the canvas with a knife and discovered the Void inspired by scientific publications. And, in 1962, Yves Klein jumped through the air, the Void, referring strongly to metaphysical theories. The action-according to Yves Klein an Ultra Action-to split the air or a canvas were part of the search for a new autonomous space-these are the words of Shozo Shimamoto-a space that deserves the name of art.

Tijs Visser, December 2011, between East and West (Excerpt from the essay "A Space that deserves the name of Art" in Shozo Shimamoto, exhibition catalogue, 2012).

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