Arts Curriculum

Network

This publication has been created to introduce [our] works to the world.25

 

Network

Gutai 11 (November 11, 1960). Special issue edited by Michel Tapié and Yoshihara Jirō that served as catalogue for The International Sky Festival and 9th Gutai Art Exhibition; introduction by Tapié. © The former members of the Gutai Art Association. Courtesy Museum of Osaka University

Before it even held its first official exhibition, Gutai published the Gutai journal. Based in relatively isolated Ashiya—a small town in western Japan whose largest neighbor is Osaka—and coming out of the isolation of wartime Japan, Yoshihara Jiro (1905–1972) felt strongly that the group had to introduce themselves to the world. Not only did he want to reach the center of the Japanese art world, in Tokyo, but also the centers of the art world abroad—in New York and Paris—and the places in between.

Spanning ten years and twelve issues, the journal included photographs of Gutai works and performances, essays by Gutai artists, and even photographs of artworks by their international peers. It was partially translated into English and French.

Yoshihara had not traveled much abroad, but he had collected art journals from all over the world, and he perceived the barriers to entry into the international art world as largely geographic. He created a vast network of like-minded artists, critics, and curators by sending the journals far and wide to people he admired.

In the United States, Jackson Pollock’s (1912–1956) biographer, B. H. Friedman (1926–2011), found the journal among Pollock’s papers and subscribed. He then introduced Gutai to other artists. In France, the influential critic Michel Tapié (1909–1987) began a long and fruitful partnership with Gutai after reading the journal.

Gutai established methods for international connection beyond just the printed page. Members participated in exhibitions abroad, invited artists to participate in their exhibitions in Japan, hosted residencies, and even built their own museum, the Gutai Pinacotheca in 1962. For eight years, the Pinacotheca showed works by Gutai and international artists, acted as a physical hub for this network, and became a destination for members of the art world visiting Japan.

In 1960, Gutai invited artists from abroad to exhibit in their International Sky Festival in Osaka. To avoid the enormous fees of shipping full-sized works on canvas from abroad, artists were asked to send sketches that Gutai members enlarged and transferred onto banners. These banners were suspended from large, tethered helium balloons in the sky.

 

25. Yoshihara Jiro, “Hakkan ni saishite”/“For Publishing This Pamphlet,” Gutai 1 (Jan. 1955), pp. 1, 33.

Gutai

Gutai 11 (November 11, 1960). Special issue edited by Michel Tapié and Yoshihara Jirō that served as catalogue for The International Sky Festival and 9th Gutai Art Exhibition; introduction by Tapié. © The former members of the Gutai Art Association. Courtesy Museum of Osaka University

Gutai

Gutai 11 (November 11, 1960). Special issue edited by Michel Tapié and Yoshihara Jirō that served as catalogue for The International Sky Festival and 9th Gutai Art Exhibition; introduction by Tapié. © The former members of the Gutai Art Association. Courtesy Museum of Osaka University

 

Show: Cover of Gutai 11 (November 11, 1960)

  • Ask students what they notice. Ask them to think about the covers of magazines with which they are familiar. What are the functions of these covers? Does the cover for Gutai 11 seem to fill these functions?
  • Next, look together at journal pages from Gutai 11. What do students notice? How do they relate to the cover, if at all?
  • Tell students that these images are from the eleventh issue of Gutai, a publication of artwork and essays on art that Gutai artists started even before they had their first exhibition. Ask students why they think artists might want to put together a journal of their artwork and essays.
  • Look at a world map or globe together. Find western Japan and the city of Osaka. Gutai artists were centered in a small town not far from Osaka named Ashiya. Now, ask students to find France, Holland, Italy, South Africa, and the United States. Gutai artists wanted to be in touch with artists in all of these places. Ask students what they think the challenges might be in making connections with artists in these places. How could they be in touch—now and then?
  • This issue of Gutai documented the 1960 International Sky Festival in Osaka for which artists from around the world were invited to send sketches of their artwork to Japan. Gutai artists then enlarged and transferred these sketches to banners and flew them in the sky from helium balloons. Ask students what they think it would be like to view art in this way and how it would differ from a traditional gallery show.
Gutai 11 (November 11, 1960). Special issue edited by Michel Tapié and Yoshihara Jirō that served as catalogue for The International Sky Festival and 9th Gutai Art Exhibition; introduction by Tapié. © The former members of the Gutai Art Association. Courtesy Museum of Osaka University
Gutai 11 (November 11, 1960). Special issue edited by Michel Tapié and Yoshihara Jirō that served as catalogue for The International Sky Festival and 9th Gutai Art Exhibition; introduction by Tapié. © The former members of the Gutai Art Association. Courtesy Museum of Osaka University


  • Gutai artists communicated with artists, critics, and curators all over the world by sending their journals containing pictures of their artworks. These journals influenced other artists’ artworks, and vice versa. For this activity, students will send pictures of their artworks to students in another city or country using more modern means—the Internet. Students will either create an artwork on the computer (using a program such as Photoshop), or will create artworks and digitally photograph them. They should then send their artworks to a collaborating classroom in another part of the United States or the world. Several websites can help make matches between classrooms (such as www.epals.com). Finally, they should make artworks inspired by those they have received from their partner classroom. How did their works influence them? How else do ideas spread throughout the world?
    Technology
  • Gutai members curated their journals the same way exhibitions are curated—by thinking carefully about which artworks and writings (poems, essays, etc.) to include and how to lay them out. Have students work in groups to “curate” two or three journal pages. They should commission artworks and writing by students in the group on a theme or related to one idea. They should then work together to lay out the journal either on the computer or as a hard copy. They should consider elements of layout such as which pieces should be juxtaposed and how to create good “flow.”
    English Language Arts
  • As an extension to their production of journal pages, you can challenge groups to take their journal production even further. They can choose a title for their journal and create a cover. They may also be challenged to produce multiples of their journal—using a copy machine, a printer, or by hand—and distribute it. To whom would they like to distribute their pages and why?
    Visual Arts

2009-07-15-15-00-47
Gutai: Splendid Playground related terms and additional resources

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