Atsuko Tanaka. The Art of Connecting

Exhibition Outline
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, is holding the 'TANAKA Atsuko - Art of Connecting' exhibition as a joint project with the Japan Foundation, the U.K.'s IKON Gallery and Spain's Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló.

TANAKA Atusko (1932-2005) began to pursue abstract expressions on the advice of KANAYAMA Akira and starting with the collage work, 'Calendar', she expressed a unique sensitivity combining delicacy and power. Later, with KANAYAMA she participated in the avant-garde 'Gutai Art Association' that was formed under the leadership of YOSHIHARA Jiro. She received attention for her 'Work (Bell)' (1955) in which twenty electric bells were rigged to ring consecutively, 'Electric Dress' (1957), which consisted of approximately one hundred fluorescent tubes and approximately eighty light bulbs, painted in nine colors of enamel paint and worn like a garment, etc., her installations and performance works standing out for their originality, even among the Gutai. Her work during this period utilized non-physical materials, such as sound, blinking lights or time, abstracting them in a way that highlighted their existence without adhering to traditional artistic expressions. She also ventured to express her 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 repetitions, but in actual fact, all her works were connected and all were new experiments.

There is a growing movement to reevaluate Japanese postwar contemporary art, beginning with the Gutai, and TANAKA Atsuko gained particular recognition after being spotlighted in Documenta12 (2007) that was held after her death. The current exhibition will contain approximately one hundred works, including recreations of her representative works, 'Work (Bell)' and 'Electric Dress', that were reproduced under the artist's guidance, allowing the viewer to retrace her footsteps as she continually sought to explore the innovative.

Highlights of the Exhibition
■ 'Gutai', 'Fluxus', 'Experimental Workshop'
This winter MOT will be holding simultaneous exhibitions on these three keywords of Japanese contemporary art.

■ TANAKA Atsuko Won World Renown
This is a celebratory exhibition that has already been shown in the UK and Spain. A special talk will be presented at opening of the exhibition to which directors of all the main institutes will be invited.

■ From her 'Bell' and 'Electric Dress' to Tableau
During her exhibitions TANAKA Atsuko presented stimulating works that could not be grasped through sight alone, then transformed these into paintings. This exhibition will include over 100 of her major works, allowing the viewer to experience TANAKA Atsuko's worldview.

■ Connecting 2011 and TANAKA Atsuko
We will be showing new works by MATSUI Shiro, KAWAI Masayuki and UECHI Yui.
We will present a program, named 'Connecting to Atsuko Tanaka', which will include live performances, the screening of a documentary work entitled 'Tanaka Atsuko - Another Gutai' and numerous other associated attractions.

Special Exhibition: Shiro Matsui / Masayuki Kawai / Yui Uechi
Atsuko Tanaka. The Art of Connecting
After Atsuko Tanaka parted with the Gutai Art Group in 1965, together with Akira Kanayama, she kept a certain distance from the art world, but the dynamism of her works continues to shock and inspire artists to this day. If the appeal of her work has not disappeared, then surely artists today should be able to discover a form of expression that enlarges on the possibilities that remain within it. It is from this viewpoint that we invited Shiro Matsui, Masayuki Kawai and Yui Uechi present new works for this exhibition.

Shiro Matsui has been producing silicone rubber sculptures on the theme of 'the borderline of the internal and external' since the 1990s, recently utilizing parachute fabric to create balloon shaped sculptures that explore this theme even more deeply. His work in this exhibition is entitled, 'between here and there is better than either here or there', and as the name suggests, it consists of a balloon that draws together the space of the 2nd floor gallery and the 1st floor entrance, combining the two adjacent spaces in a visual fashion. The balloon-shape remains inflated through a minute difference in pressure between the two spaces that are separated by the material of its skin and when the door of the 2nd floor gallery is opened or closed, the small changes in air pressure cause it to make a noise and shrink. It can be said that the space that exists within the balloon is not physical matter, rather it is the same 'phenomenon' that Atsuko Tanaka expressed through her fabric works or her 'Work (Bell)'.

The beautiful, quiet images in Masayuki Kawai's video work, 'Video Feedback Auto-generated Piece' undergo a continuous transformation, sometimes presenting an intense expression. It demonstrates a direct similarity with the experience of Tanaka's works which create an illusion of flashing light despite being paintings. The image of the powerful beat and screening that Kawai creates live in 'Video Feedback Aleatric no. 1', 'Phantasm', and 'Video Feedback Auto-generated Piece' are all created through feedback and the amplification of the signals and noises from video editing machines. The video editing equipment and sound effectors that Kawai uses when working live can weigh anything up to 100 kilograms, but the numerous codes that connect them evoke images of diagrams of the pictures that Tanaka repeatedly painted.

It was at the 'Gutai Art on the Stage,' (Sankei Kaikan Hall, Osaka) in 1957 that Atsuko Tanaka's 'Stage Clothes' and 'Electric Dress' were first used in a performance. The cinematic record of this exhibition preserves an image of the fresh, young artist when she was still only 25 years old. Uechi Yui, who is about the same age as Tanaka was at that time, produces work on the theme of her own body and its traces. In the case of Tanaka's performances, it was not her body that was important, rather it was the clothes and the way that they changed, but for Uechi, it is within the body itself and the act of dancing that she finds the most significant. In the video work 'Dance Portarit', she has coated her body in luminous paint and made it ever-changing, like a single piece of cloth, attempting to become a painting.

The work consisting of a 10 meter square piece of pink rayon fabric that Tanaka exhibited at the 'To Challenge the Mid-summer Sun Outdoor Experimental Modern Art Exhibition' in July, 1954, and the paintings she continued to create all her life, consisting of circles and lines that represent the light bulbs and wiring of the electric dress, can both be equally described as 'paintings'. However, for her the word 'painting' did not have a definitive interpretation, allowing it to be replaced by another, and this fact is made clear to us through the work of these three artists.

Exhibition Information
Atsuko Tanaka. The Art of Connecting 2012 February 4(Sat) - May 6(Sun)

Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo 3F
Closed on: Mondays, May. 1 (April. 30 is open)
Hours: 10:00-18:00 (Tickets available until 17:30)
Organizer: Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo /
The Japan Foundation
Special Support: Ishibashi Foundation
In cooperation with: NEC Display Solutions., Ltd.
Admission: Adult ¥1,000 (¥800) / University students & over 65yrs old ¥800 (¥640) /
High school & Junior high school student ¥500 (¥400) / Elementary School students and younger = Free
*( ) refers to a price for a group over 20 people
*Free entry to MOT Collection for the exhibition ticket holders
Curator: 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)
Exhibition Staff: Akio Seki (Senior Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo)
Also Showing: Ay-O: Over the Rainbow Once More Feb 4 - May 6
MOT Collection Special feature: Hideko Fukushima / Chronicle: 1964- OFF MUSEUM
Feb 4 - May 6
Bloomberg Pavilion Project
Qosmo/Techno-Shugei Club Feb 4 - Mar 4
Fumiko Kobayashi Mar 24 - Apr 22
Performance by Company Derashinera May 6 17:00-18:00
Catalogue: Atsuko Tanaka. The Art of Connecting
English-Japanese Bilingual:222 pages
  • Golden Work A, 1962, Courtesy and the Collection of Chiba City Museum of Art (c) Ryoji Ito

  • Work (6), 1955, Courtesy and the Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (c) Ryoji Ito

  • Gate of Hell, 1965-69, Courtesy and the Collection of The National Museum of Art, Osaka (c) Ryoji Ito

  • Work, 1957, Courtesy and the Collection of Ashiya City Museum of Art & History (c) Ryoji Ito

  • Drawing after 'Electric Dress', 1956, Courtesy and the Collection of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Photo: NAKAMICHI Atsushi/Nacása & Partners (c) Ryoji Ito

  • Thanks Sam, 1962, Courtesy and the Collection of Chiba City Museum of Art (c) Ryoji Ito

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