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チェックと日本の現代美術界についての感想

昭和40年会

2011年6月10日


My review of the Showa 40 Nen Kai show in Düsseldorf has just appeared online with Art Forum. Rock 'n' Roll. どうぞお楽しみください。

ps: my longer "Director's cut" version appears below & in case you missed them, these are the links to my "live" reports (with loads of photos) of the Iggy Pop and David Bowie style fun from Deutschland.

http://www.adrianfavell.com/artforum%20we%20are%20boys.pdf

UNCOOL JAPAN: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/zM7XWvbDikKEAQ38yI1t/

BREAKING GLASS: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/tOECh2HAmISpqMWBjeVb/

MAGNIFICENT SIX: http://www.art-it.asia/u/rhqiun/cAyjStvrMHK3uOk2eD9P/


DÜSSELDORF

The Group 1965 (Showa 40 Nen Kai)
‘We are Boys!’
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
21 May – 3 July 2011

The six man Group 1965 have a central place in a history of Japanese contemporary art largely unknown in the West. Their name in Japanese -- a mock pompous reference to the banal fact that they were all born in the 40th year of Emperor Hirohito -- indicates they were the generation which matured during the creative foment of Japan's late 1980s "bubble" and its dramatic, decadent aftermath in the early 90s. This is their only manifesto. Yet the six friends and rivals often put on their best work as part of this relaxed collective, which has enabled sporadic collaborations, performances and off-the-wall experimentation for over 17 years; two of them, Makoto Aida and Tsuyoshi Ozawa, can fairly lay claim to being the most important young Japanese artist of the last twenty. Together, they represent the last in a long line of neo-Dada absurdism in Japanese avant guard art with roots in the 1950s and 60s.

Their work is by turns comical, risqué, trashy and sentimental. Multi-media conceptualist, Aida, draws variously on Japanese popular culture, nationalist revisionism and political provocation. Ozawa is a warm-hearted relational artist, whose long running series seek to find a meaning for community art interventions that have been squeezed outside of conventional art spaces. Matsukage, the self-styled "leader", plays relentlessly with the seamy side of Japanese rock and TV culture in his videos and photography. Parco Kinoshita is a well known manga artist, who guilelessly makes performance art and paintings for children and old people. Oscar Oiwa, born in Brazil, resident of New York, makes sweet and soulful large-scale paintings, exploring narratives of identity loss. Sumihisa Arima, meanwhile, is an electronic noise artist, who often provides soundtracks for the others' live performances.

The famous German Kunsthalle offers an expansive, high brow location to showcase these Tokyo urban legends. In one room, there is a built row of traditional "nagaya": small lodgings with tatami, in which the artists' live out and reveal their personalities alongside other group memorabilia. There is also a generous set of Ozawa's Nasubi ("eggplant") galleries, tiny blue milk boxes offering a minature white cube in which the other artists are invited to exhibit. Among these, we get a rare showing of Aida's downright nasty Sarin gas painting of 1994, first "shown" hanging in a Tokyo suburban street; the original miniature "group show", also from 1994; and a new box by Ozawa, whose empty walls have been lacquered beautifully by a famous artisan from the region near the Tohoku disaster zone.

Elsewhere, Aida's massive jigsaw wall painting, Monument for Nothing III, is a visceral explosion of bile about everything that is most tasteless and tacky in contemporary Japanese consumer culture. It sits ingenuously alongside Parco Kinoshita's naive paintings of tsunamis, made in 2010 as a premonition (he says) of what was to come, and Oscar Oiwa's sweet and soulful paintings about travel and identity loss. Matsukage excells with his Hole Yoko, a ridiculous video of a suspiciously young Yoko Ono walking with great determination in high heels along a beach even as she falls serially into a line of sand traps. Best of all, Aida's brand new video installation, Art and Philosophy II, sees him mimicking the evolution of typical "French", "German" and "Anglo-American" abstract art in the 20th Century, as he paints nonsense on the screens in caricatural "national" styles, while declaiming famous philosophical quotes from art textbooks in a dreadful Japanese accent. Along with Ozawa's Soy Sauce Gallery (1999) -- a small constructed gallery that puts on a retrospective of Japanese art, all painted with soy sauce -- it pours scorn on the institution of Western Art Theory and its relevance to Japanese artists of their generation. By the end of the show, we are laughing as we realise the title should be read as "We are Beuys!": a sleight of hand homage and provocation in a city that both reveres and reifies the memory of its most famous long time artist resident, Joseph.

ADRIAN FAVELL
http://www.adrianfavell.com

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昭和40年会
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