Gutai 具体: conceptual art in Lugano
For the first time Lugano, Switzerland, hosted a group of four exhibitions about Japan. The one that gripped my attention is “Gutai” displayed at Museo Cantonale d’Arte: This movement, founded by Jiro Yoshihara, started offically in 1954 influencing the post-war art and other than Japan, the world.
Gutai means “concrete, precise, clear” and it is written as 具体 in Chinese characters. The meaning of the name was due because of the material used by the members of the movement; things of everyday use, something close to the artist, so concrete and real (like asfalt, newspapers, bulb light and so on).
Dynamicity, time and space are things that characterize this conceptual art: the exhibitions were usually displayed in one day, and they involved performances made before an audience, as the One Day Only Outdoor Exhibitions or Action Painting, with the intention to create a work right at the moment.
During these events two or more artists had the opportunity to challenge themselves and paint, sculpt, shape, destroy or doing anything else in order to make artworks.
This kind of art tended to mix together in an extraordinary event the presence of the media, objects of ordinary use and the place of the performance. The result was a neo-dada like art, not very far by the taste of the Japanese cultural elite which was partly familiar to the Zen and the kōan (a riddle that most of the time doesn’t have a logical answer, but it is made to enhance meditation).
The activity of Gutai Art Association was declared ended by 1965, but among these artists there were several who kept working.
Famous artists of this group were Sadamasa Motonaga, Saburo Murakami, Atsuko Tanaka Akira Kanayama.
Today some critic can see in the works made by Yoshimura Masunobu, Yoko Ono and Kusama Yayoi the heritage of this conceptual art.