I ended up seeing this show by mistake. I thought I was going to see Matisse, but then I remembered that show was at the MET. Whoops. Anyway, this exhibition is up at the MOMA until February 25th, and I'm glad I ended up experiencing it.
There is something unsettling about this show. Most of the work is subtle, conceptual, minimal... you know, nothing terribly shocking. But the repetitive sonar pulsing in the background and muddled sounds of wolves growling from the far back gallery gave the work a haunting and ghostly presence. These sounds didn't let the audience forget that the art in this exhibition was made soon after two atomic bombs had devastated Japan. Some pieces seemed to be explicitly be related to the horror of WWII, like Ikeda Tatsuo's illustrations and the black and white photography of Moriyama Daido', while most work only quietly allude to it or did not seem to relate to it at all like Yayoi Kusama's drawings and paintings.
I am glad to have been introduced to artists Tadanori Yokoo, Akasegawa Genpei, Kojima Nobuaki, and Takamatsu Jiro. I personally can relate to the aesthetics of Genpei's wrapped objects. They divorce the objects of their utilitarian function and amplify their abstract form, which I find myself doing often in my paintings. I also find solace and selflessness in Jiro's minimalist sculptures and I can't get enough of Nobuaki's folky flag sculptures.
For more information about the exhibition the MOMA has this posted on their website...
Tokyo lay in ruins in August 1945, when the Allied Powers entered Japan at the end of World War II. Under their occupation, which lasted until early 1952, the formerly militarist, imperial nation was transformed into a pacifist democracy, poised to become an economic powerhouse. In 1956, barely more than a decade after the war, the government announced that the postwar era was over.
Beginning at that historical threshold, this exhibition covers a crucial decade and a half of artistic and cultural efflorescence in Tokyo. Artists working in the city reckoned with still-fresh memories of war and devastation, ongoing political turmoil, and great social and cultural changes. Their works are often characterized by a profusion of transmuting figurative forms, the use of the artists’ own bodies, and a vigorous engagement with the exploding world of popular imagery and the detritus of industry and consumerism. Cross-genre and intermedia experiments also thrived.
Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde provides a focused look at the extraordinary concentration of creative individuals and practices in the dynamic city during those turbulent years. Featuring works in various mediums and disciplines, the exhibition offers a story of artistic crossings, collaborations, and conflicts, with the city as an incubator, introducing the myriad avant-garde experiments that emerged as artists drew on the energy of the rapidly growing and changing metropolis.