Shōzō Shimamoto solo exhibition – Jiro Yoshihara

October 1st-10th, 1962 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Organised by the Gutai Art Association

It is a coincidence, albeit a very happy one, that Shozo Shimamoto was chosen for the first solo exhibition at the Pinacotheca.

First of all, Shimamoto has been at the core of the group from the start. It is also thanks to his fervent experimental spirit, recognised and respected by all the other young members, that the Gutai group has become more compact and noticeably different from other groups.

If even art critic Tapié has said, ‘There is no artist who feels Gutai as Shimamoto does’, it is clear that there is actually something special about him.

At that time, my atelier was something like a diver support ship. Among the many young painters comparable to brave divers who brought their unknown booty from the outside world to their art, it was always Shimamoto who amazed the others in the group by bringing the fruit of his extraordinary raids, such as:

– a huge work, which I still consider a masterpiece, made by simply using a broom to spread yellow paint across the surface of a large white canvas. It took him less than ten minutes, several years before Mathieu was introduced to him

– some works with holes, similar to the ones the famous Fontana introduced to the public about 10 years later. Obviously a coincidence

– smashing paint-filled bottles onto a canvas, fixing the form of the explosion by means of the coloured paint. Sometimes, he would make acetylene gas explode in a long metal tube with paint on the end that would then fly onto the canvas. This too amply anticipated what Dali and others have done using a rifle in their experiments

– repeatedly fixing the same sign on a tableau. I can safely say that this happened long before meeting Capogrossi

These are some of the experimental pictorial techniques that Shimamoto has created over the last 10 years and even before that. If we wish to dwell on just one, we might say that Shimamoto has managed to reach – alone – a level of achievement normally attained only by many. One of the reasons leading us to form the Gutai group was precisely the great difference between our desire to applaud these works and the general attitude of coldness found even within the art world. Although ideas themselves do not guarantee the greatness and depth of art, without some discovery or other it is certainly impossible for a truly new art to flourish.

Shimamoto always wonders if his new ideas can be considered art or not, and he is seeking to understand what the threshold is. On the other hand, nothing is born of those who boastfully proclaim themselves artists.

In addition, overflowing with unique creativity, Shimamoto has already made and archived some much more original and amusing works, similar to those that the group known as Neo-Dada is producing only now. Namely:

  • a sculpture made up almost exclusively of razor blades (at the time he was only a student!)
  • a kaleidoscope projection
  • a work for the cinema involving the simultaneous projection of two different films (for the Gutai on the Stage exhibition)
  • the stage explosion of a large light bulb (turned on), which he himself struck with a baseball bat (same performance as above)
  • a work called ‘Please Walk on Here’ made from a series of pieces of wood placed at uneven heights (exhibited at the First Gutai Exhibition in Tokyo)
  • a work rolled up like a tunnel and therefore visible only from the inside (exhibited at the Second Gutai Exhibition in Tokyo)

I cannot list them all, otherwise I would never stop, but I would just mention the fact that he was the first to make ‘concrete music’, immediately trying out the tape recorders that had just come out. His talent is gradually gaining public recognition, and his artistic skills have appealed to other groups, including the Modern Art Association, which has made him a member. However, it is even more curious that Shimamoto sets little store by these awards, preferring instead to drum up enthusiasm and passion for his next goal. In the past, too, he quietly followed his path despite the risk of failing to curry favour with the public. One aspect that has changed recently is that he has decided to take his time by increasing the amplitude of his oscillations. Now, for example, I think that his works consisting in explosions of coloured paint are beginning to present a particular wealth of results. Thus, the time is ripe for this solo exhibition. It is with utmost sincerity that I say that his great works, an embrace of impetus and aesthetic opulence, offer a truly remarkable spectacle.

Enjoy the exhibition.

(Excerpt from Shōzō Shimamoto, exhibition catalogue (Gutai Pinacotheca, Ōsaka, 1st-10th October, 1962)