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The Gutai Group Collage

The Gutai Group

Started: 1954

Ended: 1972

The Gutai Group Timeline


"We have decided to pursue enthusiastically the possibilities of pure creativity. We believe that by merging human qualities and material properties, we can concretely comprehend abstract space."
Jirõ Yoshihara, 'The Gutai Art Manifesto'
"Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter. Gutai Art does not distort matter."
Jirõ Yoshihara, 'The Gutai Art Manifesto'
"As totalitarianism fails in politics, in culture, too, anything inconveniently totalitarian should disappear."
Kazuo Shiraga, 'The Establishment of the Individual'
"We are following the path that will lead to an international common ground where the arts of the east and the west influence each other. And this is the natural course of the history of art."
Jirõ Yoshihara

"Discarding the frame, getting off the walls, shifting from immobile time to lived time, we aspire to create a new painting."

Saburo Murakami


This Japanese movement represented a radical and energetic approach to artmaking that encompassed performance, painting, installation, and theatrical events, taking advantage of the freedoms available in their newly democratic homeland. They sought and achieved an extraordinary level of international recognition, collaborated with and strongly influenced conceptual and performance artists that came after them, and are now considered to mark one of the most important moments in post-war Japanese culture.

Key Ideas

Individualism was a central concern for Gutai artists. During the Second World War, Japan's totalitarian regime had promoted the notion of a national body and stifled any hints of individual expression. Members of the group unashamedly rebelled against this attitude in their writings and artworks, encouraging the public, children, and other artists to "do what no one has done before!"
The word 'gutai' translates as 'concreteness', and it articulates one of the Gutai group's most distinctive traits - their desire to physically engage with an extraordinary range of materials. The name also anticipated their investigations into the reciprocal connection between matter (paint, chemicals, tar, mud, water) and physical action (breaking, exploding, tearing, dripping). They wanted to create a new kind of art that explored the relationship between the human spirit and material, works that luxuriated in "the scream of matter."
Gutai artists were exceptional international networkers who used the media to spread their ideas across the globe. They also collaborated with other artists' groups in Europe and America, including Allan Kaprow's Happenings, the Art Informel group, and the Dutch Nul collective. This drive was not only essential to the movement's long term success, but it also represented their rejection of Japanese isolation during World War II and their desire to be a part of a new, liberal-minded Japan.
Gutai firmly believed in concept over form, thoroughly rejecting representative art. They wanted to move away from the art object towards the invisible world of ideas, and to leave plenty of room for viewers to come up with potential meanings on their own. Two Gutai practices that articulated these ideas were the pared-down, interactive works of Atsuko Tanaka and Saburõ Murakami's pieces that aimed to separate art from content with a strong dose of wit.


The Gutai Group Image

Japan in the 1950s was in a process of renewal after being ravaged by the Second World War, and diplomatic relations with the West - especially America after its occupation of the country came to an end in 1952 - were rapidly becoming reestablished. This new internationalism had a strong impact on Japan's cultural scene, and it was against this backdrop of young democracy and a growing belief in individual freedom that Jirõ Yoshihara was inspired to found the Gutai Art Association in the affluent town of Ashiya, near Osaka in Japan, in 1954.

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" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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