Gutai (具体, “Embodiment”) – Mimicking Violence To Work Through Trauma

Posted: February 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

By its very nature, action painting is painting in the medium of difficulties.
–Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters” (1952)

There exists my action, regardless of whether or not it is secured.
–Kazuo Shiraga, “Action Only” (1955)


Kazuo Shiraga
Challenging Mud (1955)


Kazuo Shiraga
painting with his feet for Life magazine
at the Nishinomiya factory of Jiro Yoshihara (1956)

Shozo Gutai

Shōzō Shimamoto
making a painting by shattering bottles (1956)


Murakami Saburō
Passing Through (1956)


Kazuo Shiraga
Work II (1958)


Shomei Tomatsu
Atomic Bomb Damage (1961)


Kazuo Shiraga
Black Sky (1990)

  1. Collin Andersen says:

    Running through panels of paper for art? Sign me up!
    From the title, is he doing this to work through PTSD?

    • This movement arose not long after the bombing of Japan in WWII. Not only were Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastated by nuclear blast, but also over 50% of all other Japanese cities were incinerated by relentless fire bombing. Further, in addition to death and defeat, the Japanese also had to witness the demise of the empire’s imperial cult. It’s hard for us to fathom what it might be like for the leader of one’s own church to speak on the radio – the very first time the average person had ever even heard his voice – and confess that he is not divine, but simply an ordinary, defeated human. The entire culture went through a tremendous shock. Gutai, it seems to me, is just one manifestation of this. Searching for some way to process their trauma, Guitai landed on the paintings of Jackson Pollock, and used his work as a kind of therapeutic ‘working through’.

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