Akira Kanayama

The Spirit of an Era

The 2012 exhibition catalog from the National Art Center, Tokyo, documenting the first Tokyo retrospective of Gutai works covering all it’s periods. In his essay, “Gutai: A Utopia of the Modern Spirit,” editor Shoichi discusses the reasons for the movements four decade omission from Tokyo artistic investigation. The author argues that while Tokyo dismissed Gutai, it was equally misunderstood in the West. Underlying all of these misgivings was Yoshihara’s desire for the emergence of a new spirit after war torn Japan. “It seems that Yoshihara truly believed that pursuing new horizons in art was connected to the liberation of the spirit and would help people live a better life in turbulent times as well as contributing to the development of the human race as a whole…If Yoshihara believed that art would force Japan, after its military defeat, to become a modern nation of the sort that it was destined to be before the war, and a country that could engage in discourse on equal terms with the West based on a shared set of values, one might also say that Gutai offered him a practical means of achieving the goal of a ‘Utopia of the modern spirit’ that was thoroughly characteristic of someone who had been steeped in the liberalism of the ‘20s…” Other essays include Yukako Yamada’s, “Approaching the Finale: The Osaka Expo,” which traces the evolution of Gutai’s parting gesture, and “From Ashiya to Amsterdam: Gutai’s Exhibition Spaces,” by Naoki Yoneda, which discusses various Gutai exhibitions both at home and abroad, but focuses on the architectural space of the Gutai Pinachotheca. The main text breaks the movement into early, middle and later periods, with extensive photo documentation of each. English translations are provided at the conclusion of the work, as is a “Gutai Chronology,” and “Biographical Sketches of the Artists,” as well as a complete listing of works in the exhibition.

GUTAI: The Spirit of an Era
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