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Exhibitions

Saburo Murakami

30.11.2017 - 24.03.2018
Saburo Murakami
Installation view Terrace Gallery ©JanLiégeois
Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to present a comprehensive solo exhibition by Saburo Murakami (1925-1996), Japanese painter and pioneer of performance art. The exhibition brings together a large selection of important paintings from the 1950s through the end of the 1960s., featuring works from the artist’s estate alongside generous loans from prominent private collections.

Eager to explore new approaches to art, Murakami formed Zero-kai (Zero Group) together with, among others, Kazuo Shiraga and Akira Kanayama in 1952. Murakami was also one of the best-known members of the Gutai Art Association, which he joined in 1955. The same year he became a Gutai member, he drew major attention because of his kami-yaburi (paper breakthrough) performances. In these events the artist, using his body’s momentum, broke through large sheets of paper that were stretched between a frame, tearing the screen-like objects while doing so. Sometimes he mounted many consecutive panels after each other like a tunnel, other times he slashed just one paper sheet at the time. He continued to do performances and happenings up until his death in 1996.

It was Murakami’s theoretical interest that lead him to these paper breakthroughs that are internationally renowned as pioneering examples of performance art. He searched to unify time and space, two concepts that are divided by rational thinking, but become joined together in the sphere of action. His interest in art theory is not surprising, since he held a doctorate in philosophy with a specialisation in aesthetics. Murakami encouraged viewers to rethink their assumptions about art, while questioning the conventions of the medium, authorship, art making, and art observing.

“There are things or events that I have before my eyes, and still do not perceive. Sometimes it happens to me that I cannot remember some places, although I had just seen them in a cinema film. If an object is placed in front of me I sometimes see it as it really is, and sometimes I do not actually see it, although I receive it optically. I believe that we do not look about us very precisely. But on the other hand it could happen that I stare at an object with such enormous intensity that afterwards it seems even to myself crazy and idiotic, and yet I see nothing in reality.”

Murakami was renowned for his paintings. Highly conceptual in his methods and presentation of art, he experimented with a variety of painting gestures inspired by children. Initially, Murakami applied several layers of paint in an almost excessive way. The playfulness of the creative act was one of the central premises for the artist, who welcomed elements of chance and inevitability in his work. Works that were created between 1955 and the mid-1960s stress the passage of time by retaining traces of violent actions and dynamic changes, sharing a commonality with the kami-yaburi performances. In the late 1950s, he experimented with relief-like works, attaching pieces of wood, thick plaster, or other materials to raise the surface. He also splashed paint across the canvas and employed dynamic brushstrokes.

Later in his career, his works merged further with conceptual, performance, and minimalist techniques. Brush strokes were arranged more separately and simply as opposed to of the former multi-layered approach. The artist also further explored his tendency to use strong and contrasting colours. Throughout his oeuvre, Murakami expressed a distance from the purely aesthetic, and strived for ways to constantly renew himself.

Terrace Gallery
30 November .2017 - 24 March 2018


Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
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