Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde

Doryun Chong. MoMA (D.A.P., dist.), $55 (228p) ISBN 978-0-87070-834-3
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Tokyo during this 15-year span was the scene of intense economic, cultural, and political activity, and its artists displayed an awareness of global trends without sacrificing a sense of postwar Japanese trauma boldly represented by Tomatsu Shomei’s stark photograph of a Nagasaki woman’s bomb-scarred face. This catalogue of that period’s art, which accompanies an eponymous exhibition, opens with the standard historiographical essay on the period and its art. Three subsequent essays are much more scholarly, throwing Marxist-Hegelian discourse, concepts of agency, and a kitchen sink of theorists (e.g., Walter Benjamin) at their topic. Reproductions of artworks show the tension between the seen and the repressed or shadowed: Yamaguchi Kasuhiro’s “shape-shifting” wire-mesh sculptures; photographs of Nakanishi Natsuyuki’s performance of Clothespins Assert Churning Action, in which he walked around Tokyo in a mask made of clothespins; and Takamatsu Jiro’s Oneness of Concrete, “in which broken fragments of concrete are pieced together inside a container made of the same concrete, explor[ing] the infinite possibilities in opposing conditions of part and whole, absence and presence.” The works possess a distinct sharpness, and the book does a thorough job of explaining their nuances. The Japan Foundation, in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, has again provided a definitive examination of Japanese art for an American audience. 270 illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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