Shozo Shimamoto. Beyond Gutai at Alberto Di Castro, Rome

We are pleased to present Shozo Shimamoto. Beyond Gutai, an exhibition curated by Piero Tomassoni and Denise Di Castro, in collaboration with the Shozo Shimamoto Association.

Shimamoto’s live performance at the 2nd Gutai Exhibition, Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo, October 1956 Ⓒ Osaka City Museum of Modern Art

The Alberto Di Castro gallery has an enduring legacy spanning almost 150 years and it has recently embarked on a journey to expand its programme toward modern and contemporary art. After an exhibition of Corrado Cagli organised with acclaimed Italian gallerist Gian Enzo Sperone, Di Castro is now partnering with Artvisor to present the works of Japanese post-war master Shozo Shimamoto (1928 – 2013). Shimamoto was one of the founders of the avant-garde Gutai group, a collective that was the first of the post-war era to radically break away from the conventions of Japanese cultural norms and personify embodied transcendental expression by privileging “the trace of action”. 

Shozo Shimamoto, Senza Titolo Uzumaki No Sakuhin, 2010

In this vein, Shimamoto advocated a “ban on the paintbrush” to free colours from their enslavement to the tool of the establishment of master Asian calligraphers and conservative artist societies.  Shimamoto’s iconoclastic methods were personified in prolific performances that involved physically dramatic gestures, where the artist hurled paint-filled bottles toward the canvas, releasing explosive bursts of pigment that ricocheted across the surface all in chaotic harmonies of gradation and pattern. This visual spectacle of provocation made the audience complicit in disrupting centuries-old social conventions, an act still alive in the artist’s oeuvre today.

Shozo Shimamoto, Crane Performance Naples, 2006

Shimamoto was also one among many international artists who upheld the history of choosing Italy as a privileged destination for artistic freedom. Not just a nostalgic destination for Romantic grand tours, but a place of creation for the cultural atmosphere that continues to attract international artists thanks to the patronage of many enlightened collectors and scholars. It comes as no surprise the works presented in this exhibition, all produced in Italy, can be considered amongst the best and most actively subversive contemporary examples of Shimamoto’s production. An enduring testament to the history of global contemporaneity that began in the 1940’s and continues to this day. 

Shozo Shimamoto, Bottle Crash Performance in Bologna, 2008

Shozo Shimamoto, born in Osaka in 1928, rose to prominence as one of the pioneering figures behind the Gutai movement during the 1950s. Renowned for his dynamic, action-oriented artistic approach, he offered an Eastern interpretation to the realms of Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism and Kaprow’s Happenings. His innovative works have been exhibited at prestigious institutions worldwide, from the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York to the Jeu de Paume in Paris, and form part of the permanent collections of esteemed institutions like the Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, cementing his legacy in the global art scene. Notably, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. He continued working until his death in 2013.

Exhibition Information

Curated by Piero Tomassoni and Denise Di Castro
Preview Evening: Monday May 6, 2024 | 17:00 – 20:00
Alberto Di Castro, Piazza Di Spagna 5, Rome