The Gutai Group, founded in Osaka in 1954 by the pioneer of abstract art Jiro Yoshihara, represents the most original and profound contribution given by Japanese culture to 20th-century art. Probably, indeed, those who maintain that the Gutai was one of the highest expressions of artistic freedom expressed by the entire twentieth-century artistic horizon is right. Although, in fact, the Gutai Group presents itself in an irreproachable manner as an all-round artistic avant-garde, unlike almost all other avant-gardes, it has managed to keep alive two fundamental characteristics that still identify it as something unique. .
First of all, Gutai, since its first tests, does not present its “group” project as a rigid code of new creative rules. The group does not impose on its members a series of artistic laws or the use of obligatory techniques or mediums. In the artistic environment of the founders, who in addition to Yoshihara were artists such as Shozo Shimamoto, Kazuo Shiraga, Saburo Murakami, Yasuo Sumi, Jozo Ukita and others, all active starting from 1954-1955, an expressive moral of extreme freedom prevails. limits of creative playfulness. For this reason, through the decades Gutai has expressed itself through a plurality of forms and genres that in addition to informal painting count experimental experiences with sound, theater, film, indoor and outdoor installation and of course the performance and conceptualization .
Gutai has also been able to move, as perhaps no other artistic movement, all the focus of attention on the artist in its concreteness of being physical and natural. The meaning of the concrete is already contained in its mysterious name, “Gutai” which, according to some, means “concrete”, “concreteness”, but according to the testimony of Shimamoto, who chose it as the name of the group, it would mean more precisely “personification” , “Incarnation”, just to underline how the identity of art depends above all on the physical presence of the artist who generates the work, which expresses its freedom of movement in the order and disorder of the materials.
As happens in almost all the forms of artistic avant-garde that have dotted the history of the twentieth century, even in Gutai what immediately and definitively enters into crisis is the system of an art based on the design, the figure and the exquisitely pictorial qualities of artistic work. . The painting techniques and the virtuosity of the representation of the real, that is the old need of mimesis and mirroring of the world, in Gutai are impulsively replaced by a compositional sensitivity radically concentrated on the physicality of the materials, objects and objects conveyed in the constructive process of the works , be they canvases, bodily actions, entities of another nature.
The hic et nunc, the here and now of Gutai is a place, a space, a vertiginous throw into the physicality of phenomena, a kinetic and interactive game between the artist and the world of things and substances that surrounds him, as happens for example, in the perhaps most famous icon of the Gutai, the “PassingThrough” performance, created by Murakami Saburo in 1956, in which the artist, dressed normally and wearing glasses, launches himself through a row of cardboard canvases, tearing at his hands bare.
Gutai’s favorite substance of creativity is color, cast, scattered, beaten, exploded, kneaded like a complex substance, rich in biological undertones and naturalistic echoes, while tools, tools, objects, tools and the very body of the artists are the means through which the expression gives its energy to the artistic material, leaving the imprints that create the work. Objectivity drowns the ego, drags it and overwhelms it as a sometimes upsetting and sometimes happy force. Painting is identification with the outside, with the undifferentiated existential totality of the ego: cosmos, natural world and mechanical fever of the modern city enclosed in the same sign.