Dangling over a canvas, feet covered in paint, Kazuo Shiraga brought “foot paintings” to the art world. A member of Japan’s post-war Gutai Art Association, and a proponent of process-based abstract paintings, Shiraga’s most popular works are bold, dramatic creations that capture the artist's dance-like movements. After falling into obscurity in the West, Shiraga’s works were brought back into the spotlight thanks to a 2013 retrospective of Gutai works at the Guggenheim in New York. His processes - dancing over a canvas, or crawling through mud - straddled the border of performance art and are thoroughly documented, lending a performance quality to his painting even today.
Another Gutai artist to feature at the Dallas Museum of Art is Sadamasa Motonaga. More detailed and refined, Motonaga’s process - tarashikomi - involved pouring paint into wet paint, resulting in psychedelic pools, drips and bleeding colours. Motonaga’s organic shapes and fragile dots and splatters convey a delicate collage of neuroses, evocative of Japan’s post-war anxieties. After relocating to New York, synthetic resin was no longer available, and Motonaga moved to airbrushing, evolving his work into bright classically ‘retro’ forms and hues.
More than 60 items covering the full arcs of each artist’s career are currently on display at the DMA in the exhibition Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga running until July 19, 2015.