Beyond Gutai 1955-2009
This exhibition, the first of Tsuruko Yamazaki’s in France, features new work made of
tin and canvas specifically made for this exhibition as well as early works that originally
marked her ingenuity. This opportunity provides a rare chance to view Yamazaki’s
unique artistic path of over six decades.
Tsuruko Yamazaki, born in 1925 was a founding member of the avant-garde collective
Gutai (Gutai Art Association, 1954-1972) that, under the unorthodox leadership of Jiro
Yoshihara, explored radical and experimental methods in search of a new visual
language. Seizing the reflective qualities of the hard-edged metal tin, Yamazaki
demonstrated a variety of inventive styles that include works such as: The Cans, 1955,
made from thirty tin cans painted with pink dye and installed randomly on the floor,
and Work, 1957, consisting of crushed tin sheets on the wall with colored gelatin lights
on the floor. Exhibited in a series of legendary exhibitions organized by the Gutai
between 1955 and 1957, these seminal works exude a glittering presence where
material, light, color and form are unified for maximum visual and sensual effects.
In her subsequent series of paintings on canvas from the 1960's, Yamazaki emulated
the mesmerizing power generated by the diffused reflection of tin, in which brightly
colored, geometric and biomorphic forms collide and overlap on the surface evoking a
dynamic, multi-dimensional reality. At the core of these delirious experiments, beyond
what art critic Michel Tapié called ''confusion,'' there is Yamazaki's genuine
curiosity in unraveling the nature of trans-dimensional perception well beyond logic.
This enlightening vision continues to propel her work today resulting in fully
unexpected and playful twists, turns and returns.
Yamazaki’s early works from the Gutai period have been shown in many survey
exhibitions of Japanese Contemporary art including: "Japon des Avant-gardes 1910-
1970," at Centre Georges Pompidou in 1986, La Biennale di Venezia in 1993 and
2009. In 2004, the first retrospective exhibition was held at Ashiya City Museum of Art
and History, Japan. And yet, her work as an individual artist beyond the Gutai period
has remained mostly unknown internationally.
“Gutai" literally means "concrete" in Japanese, but the group’s use of the name
actually comes from the collective's determination to "create art that proves our
spirits are free." Beyond Gutai, Yamazaki is the true embodiment of that very spirit.
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