Page 20 - Studio International - July/August 1967
P. 20

A Japanese                               differs from that of their contemporaries in  down on large strips of paper and pinned to
                                              the West. Western and particularly American  the wall at the back of the room with the
                                              influences have been quite clearly absorbed,
     experience                               although the spirit behind the work of the  number of votes beside each name. 	this
                                              younger generation is neither as extreme nor
                                              as consistently unified. Boldness is tempered   figure represents number 5 in Japanese. The
                                              by a delicacy and even tentativeness which   sum total of the separate horizontal and
                                              suggests the stages of development rather than   vertical strokes adds up to five, and the
                                              those of conclusion. The prolonged and rather   gradual addition of the strokes was used in
                                              painful experiments of the older generation of   counting up the votes throughout the various
                                              artists like Yoshihara and Yamaguchi, their   stages of the session. Since there were seven
                                              early eclecticism which has been finally re-  jurors and the maximum votes any one artist
                                              solved in an extremely personal style and work   could obtain was seven, his score in the seven
                                              of considerable substance, has helped the   stages looked something like this:
     Jasia Reichardt                          artists who today are in their twenties and
                                              thirties to avoid the traps of having to come to
                                              terms with the entire history of Western art
     There are 50,000 artists in Japan, of whom  through their own work.
     176 were represented in the 9th Tokyo     The most important international exhibition   After the first votes had been cast, it was
     Biennale. Only about 20 per cent of all  in Japan is the Tokyo Biennale. The 9th  decided to eliminate artists with only one vote.
     Japanese artists work in what could be  Biennale, held in May 1967, included the work  At this point the chairman invited comments
     described as contemporary idiom, and since  of artists from seventeen countries and a total  from each member of tile jury. Most jurors
     there is virtually no market for their work,  of 434 works. It took place at the Tokyo  were pleased that there were no distinctions
     the situation is far more critical than in either  Metropolitan Gallery which is a public gallery  made between sculpture and painting. Michel
     the United States or Western Europe. This  without a permanent collection. The Biennale  Ragon made the point that it was difficult to
     does not mean that there is no market for  is sponsored by the Mainichi Newspapers,  judge the Japanese entries, especially for the
     paintings, but simply no committed interest  who are also responsible for organizing and  foreign jurors, since the Japanese artists were
     in contemporary art, since countless repre-  financing international concerts, music com-  represented by single works, and if one were
     sentations of Mount Fuji and Japanese ver-  petitions, foreign and national exhibitions  unfamiliar with an artist's output it might be
     sions of Utrillo supply a very heavy demand.  and numerous other cultural events. Whereas  impossible to decide whether a particular
     A few of the better known younger Japanese  most foreign artists were represented by be-  work was the result of a happy accident or a
     artists, like Arakawa and Tadasky, live and  tween two and four works, the Japanese  definitive development. It was generally
     work abroad, but the vitality of the art situa- showed one work each, their only advantage  agreed that the foreign selections were not
     tion in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka is astound-  being the possibility of showing very large or  particularly representative, especially the
     ing, especially in view of what little has been  environmental constructions.     French selection, which with the ommission
     seen of Japanese art outside Japan.       The 9th Biennale was the first to invite an  of Arman and Martial Raysse, and inclusion
      To harbour and promote new Japanese art,  international jury to select works for the  of Carzou, Cottavos and Aizpiri, gave the
     Tokyo has precisely two private commercial  twelve prizes which were offered. Since noth-  impression that French art stops with Hartung
     galleries : Tokyo Gallery and Minami Gallery.  ing is every written about the process by  and Vasarely.
     Since neither is big enough to hold large  which a jury arrives at their decision, and   At this juncture the jury were reminded that
     exhibitions, these are normally organized in  since the Tokyo Biennale was remarkable for  the previous grand prix winners were not
     the more important department stores, like  an extremely efficient system, it may be  eligible for prizes. The young Japanese critic
     Matsuya in the Ginza district of Tokyo,  worthwhile to describe it in some detail.   Tono commented that for the first time in the
     where they are mounted by the artists them-  The jurors were: Atsuo Imaizumi (director  history of the Tokyo Biennale as high as 25
     selves and open to the public for as short a  of Kyoto Museum of Modern Art) — chair-  per cent of the Japanese entries were by
     period as one week. One of the best examples  man; Teiichi Hijikata (director of Kamakura  artists in their thirties and therefore this was
     of resourcefulness and initiative is the activi-  Museum of Modern Art), two young Japanese  the first Biennale which was representative of
     ties of the Gutai Group which has converted  art critics Yoshiaki Tono and Ichiro Haryu,  current trends in Japan.
     commercial premises in Osaka into a vast  Michel Ragon from France, Maurice Tuch-  After the first eliminations, thirty names
     gallery where numerous exhibitions of foreign  man (curator of modern art at Los Angeles  remained pinned to the wall. This time the
     and Japanese artists have been organized  County Museum), and myself. The exhibition  jury were asked to write down twelve names.
     during the past few years. Gutai, literally,  was already open for two weeks before the  Again artists with only one vote were elimi-
     means 'concrete', and the works of the group's  jury session so that all the works could be  nated and now only fifteen names were left
     members are non-figurative, although this is  seen under the best possible conditions. The  on the wall. Before further voting the chair-
     the only characteristic which they share. It  actual jury session was held between 10.30  man asked for comments about the possible
     might be more accurate to say that the Gutai  and 4.45 with a longish break for lunch, and  winners of the two grands prix—one for a
     artists work within all idioms of abstraction  it was attended by two interpreters, one for  Japanese artist and one for a foreign artist.
     from the informal to that based on geometric  French, one for English, and eleven members  By this time it was clear that the decision for
     principles. What is remarkable is the extensive  of staff of the Mainichi Newspapers who kept  the foreign grand prix winner would have to
     uses of plastic materials which explore the  a record of the proceedings,, collected votes,  be made between Vasarely and Stella. Ragon
     qualities of the synthetic substances them-  counted them, pinned up names of artists on a  announced that he did not wish to continue
     selves, which are neither disguised nor painted.  wall and kept a score. The Tokyo Biennale  the dispute between France and USA and
     Yoshihara, the winner of the Japanese grand  jury session was the most expedient process of  would vote for the Hungarian. It was evident
     prix at the Tokyo Biennale, is the founder of  selection in my experience. As the first step  that neither Stella nor Vasarely were exhibit-
     the Gutai group, which for many years repre-  the chairman asked the jurors to write down  ing their most impressive work and Stella's
     sented the most avant-garde trends in Japan.   on a piece of paper twenty names of artists  selection was particularly poor with the
      It may be difficult to pinpoint the ways in  whom they considered of interest. The names  exception of one painting. A discussion en-
     which the work of the young Japanese artists  of all the artists on the seven lists were written   sued as to whether the prize should be given
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