Things weren't going so hot in Japan a decade after WWII. Two of its cities were recovering from having been brutally bombed, and the entire country was dealing with postwar societal depression. Add to this the beginnings of the questioning and unrest that would eventually explode into the youth movements of the '60s and you have an environment in which art starts getting gloriously weird. The exhibition "Gutai" examines that moment in Japanese history and the artists who attempted to push their country into a new way of thinking and have some fun besides. Founded in 1954 by Jiro Yoshihara, the Gutai group took their name from a Japanese word that translates as "embodiment," and they indeed used their bodies in ways few artists before them would have dared. Saburo Murakami sent himself flying through paper screens, gleefully ripping them as he went, while Kazuo Shiraga liked to swing across his canvases on a rope as he dripped paint from his feet. It all proved hugely inspiring to the performance and conceptual artists that came after them, and the exhibition includes contemporary work that demonstrates Gutai's influence to this day.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Feb. 8. Continues through March 30, 2013