Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) opens Atsuko Tanaka. Art of Connecting

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) presents Atsuko Tanaka. Art of Connecting, an exhibition on view February 4–Sunday, May 6, 2012, in collaboration with The Japan Foundation, the IKON gallery, UK, and Espai D’Art Contemporani de Castelló, Spain.

Atsuko Tanaka, “Electric Dress (Reconstructed in 1986),” 1956. Courtesy and the Collection of Takamatsu City Museum of Art. © Ryoji Ito.

In 2012 the world’s eye turns its eye towards Japan’s avant-garde art of the fifties and sixties, such as ‘Gutai’ or ‘Experimental Workshop’. Stimulated by Western avant-garde art in the postwar years, Japanese artists decided that they wanted to create a form of art that ‘nobody had seen before’, and they set about it with a straightforward, yet fresh sensitivity and overflowing energy. Among them was TANAKA Atsuko who displayed an outstanding and unique talent as a woman member of the Gutai group. Unlike other Japanese avant-garde women artists of the time, such as ONO Yoko or KUSAMA Yayoi, she did not move to New York in search of expressional freedom and achieve fame there, instead TANAKA remained in Japan where she experimented with her own forms of expression. In the ‘Documenta 12′ exhibition in 2007 her ‘Electric Dress’ attracted great attention and then a large-scale work of hers, from the collection of MOMA, was featured in an exhibition in 2010, her reputation growing like a ‘late-blooming flower.’

A piece of cloth flapping in the wind provided the inspiration for her ‘Bell’ installation, in which sound travels through space, while the flashing of a neon tube provided the idea for the ‘Electric Dress’; using immaterial sounds or light to produce metaphorical expressions, there was nothing to equal TANAKA’s rich and active imagination during the fifties. Her work stood out in strong contrast to the other members of the Gutai movement who restricted themselves solely to the direct relationship of objects. Today, when the whole world is connected through a network, her ‘networking painting’, in which she represented flashing light bulbs as circles and patiently connecting them with lines, can be described as prophetic. The ‘Art of Connecting’ refers not to a single picture, but to the numerous works that fill the space and begin to synchronize with each other. TANAKA Atsuko continues to transmit her message towards the present day.

TANAKA Atsuko’s (1932–2005) first abstract work was a collage entitled ‘Calendar’ (1953) and subsequent to this, she joined KANAYAMA Akira in the avant-garde group ‘Gutai’ that was founded by YOSHIHARA Jiro. With her ‘Work (Bell)’ (1955) in which twenty electric bells were rigged to ring consecutively, her ‘Electric Dress’ (1957), which consisted of one hundred fluorescent tubes and ninety light bulbs, painted in nine colors of enamel paint and worn like a garment, etc., her installations and performance works stood out for their originality, even among the Gutai. She even tried to express these experiments through painting, substituting the light bulbs and wires of her ‘Electric Dress’ with circles and lines, producing a huge number of variations on this theme over the course of her life. It appears that sometimes the path she took led to extremely radical developments and at others, simple repetition, but in actual fact, all were necessary steps in her search for innovation and all her works new experiments connecting with each other.

The ‘Connecting to Atsuko Tanaka’ program will consist of a talk show, the screening of a documentary on Atsuko Tanaka, entitled ‘Atsuko Tanaka Another GUTAI’, and various other attractions. The highlight of this program will be the presentation of various new works by contemporary artists: a large-scale balloon sculpture by Shiro Matsui named, ‘between here and there is better than either here or there’, performance and a video installation by Masayuki Kawai, who connects video equipment together to create music and images from the sounds it produces, and also a performance and a video work by Yui Uechi, who covers her entire body in luminous paint. ‘The possibilities that were pioneered by Atsuko Tanaka have yet to be exhausted. They continue to the present day.’ (Akio Seki)

This long-awaited exhibition will present a comprehensive retrospective of her career, containing approximately one hundred works, including reconstructions of her representative works, ‘Work (Bell)’ and ‘Electric Dress’, that were reproduced under her personal guidance. It will also include a lot of reference work: contemporary film of her performances, previously unpublished sketchbooks and drawings.

While this exhibition is showing, the Mot Collection will present a special exhibition of the work of FUKUSHIMA Hideko who was active in the Experimental Workshop. Hideko Fukushima (1927-1997) was a painter and joined the Japanese avant-garde art group, Jikken Kobo [Experimental Workshop] in 1951 as the only female member. She created large number of richly colored oil and watercolor works with stamps, various other techniques and materials. Centered around works newly acquired for the collections, this exhibition will introduce a hitherto little-unknown aspect of this artist.

Jonathan Watkins(Director, Ikon Gallery)
Mizuho Kato(Visiting Associate Professor, Museum of Osaka University)
Koichi Kawasaki(Chief Curator/ Assistant Director, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)
Yuko Hasegawa(Chief Curator , Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo )
Lorenza Barboni(Director, Espai d’art contemporani de CastellÓ)
(MOT Venue Program) Akio Seki (Senior Curator , Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo )

Organized by:
Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo/
The Japan Foundation

Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT)
4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku
Tokyo 135-0022 Japan

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