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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Kazuo Shiraga

(1924 - 2008), Japan

Kazuo Shiraga initially studied nihonga in Kyoto but was discontent with its traditional style and materials. He began experimenting with painting using his fingers, and found he preferred the thick tube-based oil paints to the thin ink-based paint of his studies. In 1952 he co-founded the Zero Society (Zero-kai) with Saburō Murakami and Akira Kanayama. Soon after that he joined Gutai Art Association. Gutai emerged out of a Japan torn apart by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the loss of World War II and the American occupation of Japan. Postwar Japan was facing an identity crisis—a struggle between tradition and modernity that was reflected and expressed in the art of Gutai. The artists of Gutai were in the throes of an unimaginably new era. Jiro Yoshihara, a leader of the group, reacted by telling the group to 'make something that has never existed'.

In his art, Shiraga reflected the emerging new sense of the relationship between body and earth, or an artist and his materials. In works such as Challenging Mud (1955) he wrestled with a mud mixture, in doing so forming it into sculptural and painterly shapes. While Yoshihara saw physical remnants of a performance as residue, Shiraga valued each part equally. Shiraga knew of Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism, but sought something beyond what Abstract Expressionism could provide.

Shiraga is perhaps best known for the foot paintings that he began creating from the 1950s. To make these paintings, he would flick or shovel oil paint from a bucket onto large sheets of paper or canvas that were placed on the floor. He would then move the paint around with his feet while holding onto a rope on the ceiling. Shiraga's method was initially a logical solution to the problem of working with a large canvas on the floor (to avoid dripping) and being unable to reach the very middle. To reach this unreachable centre, Shiraga decided he must 'get inside the canvas.' In this collaborative relationship with his medium, Shiraga created a range of strikingly textured large-scale paintings.

The process of Shiraga's paintings was initially performed to an audience (from around 1957), but eventually became a private aspect of the creation. Shiraga's performances were pre-Happening-era Happenings. Allan Kaprow himself, the father of the Happening, acknowledges the debt of his Happenings to the Gutai performances he had seen in New York.

In 1971 Shiraga entered the Buddhist priesthood of the Enryaku-ji Monastery of Mount Hiei, where he continued to paint under his monk name (Sodo) until his death in 2008. Shiraga enjoyed much acclaim in Japan and Europe over the course of his life, but it was not until after his death that his work flourished in the USA. This oversight was rectified with exhibitions such as Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012-13); Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012-13); and Gutai: Splendid Playground, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013).

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

芬芳 by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo Shiraga芬芳, 1975 Oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm
Tang Contemporary Art
YOU (#124) 鎔 (#124) by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaYOU (#124) 鎔 (#124), 1992 Oil on canvas
45.8 x 33.5 cm
Tang Contemporary Art
Kaku Rou (Threatening Wolf) by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaKaku Rou (Threatening Wolf), 1963 Oil paint on canvas
91.4 x 116.8 x 3.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Vaisravana (Bishamonteno) by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaVaisravana (Bishamonteno), 1974 Oil on canvas
130 x 162 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Untitled by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaUntitled, 1964 Oil on Canvas
49.5 x 64.8 cm
de Sarthe
Rose Festival by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaRose Festival, 1998 Acrylic on paper
55 x 75 cm
de Sarthe
Dattan by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaDattan, 1988 Oil on canvas
112 x 162 cm
de Sarthe
Dattan, Shunie No Gyo by Kazuo Shiraga contemporary artwork Kazuo ShiragaDattan, Shunie No Gyo, 1973 Oil on canvas
130 x 162 cm
de Sarthe

Recent Exhibitions

View All (6)
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Painting and Existence at Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
Closed
15 February–16 March 2019 Group Exhibition Painting and Existence Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Gutai at Hauser & Wirth, New York
Closed
1 November–22 December 2018 Group Exhibition Gutai Hauser & Wirth, 69th Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A New Way of Walking at Timothy Taylor, London
Closed
7 June–24 August 2018 Group Exhibition A New Way of Walking Timothy Taylor, London

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2019: A Post-mortem Ocula Report Art Basel in Hong Kong 2019: A Post-mortem 6 Apr 2019 : Diana d’Arenberg for Ocula

Although Art Basel in Hong Kong is the youngest of the Art Basel fairs, and a relative newcomer to the international art fair circuit, it has now become a major attraction for collectors and galleries from around the world. The seventh edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong saw thousands of art courtesans and benefactors kick off the week with a string...

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In Related Press

The Armory Show 2016 – Highlights from Africa and Asia Related Press The Armory Show 2016 – Highlights from Africa and Asia Art Radar : 3 March 2016

Now in its 22nd year, The Armory Show has more than proved its indomitable status in the New York and international art scene. A study by economist Clare McAndrew recorded total sales of USD200 million over the fair’s five-day run last year, and the 65,000-strong footfall made it the second most-attended fair in the world after Art Basel...

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