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Kazuo Shiraga

Kazuo Shiraga, Tenhorin, 1974, oil on paper laid on panel, 72.7x60.6cm
Kazuo Shiraga, Tenhorin, 1974, oil on paper laid on panel, 72.7x60.6cm

Born in Amagasaki in 1924, Kazuo Shiraga is most famous for his action-driven practices including paintings created using his feet. These foot paintings are filled with visceral energy, which explores the connection between spirituality, body and matter.

Though he had trained as a classical Nihonga painter at Kyoto Municipal Special School of Painting, he co-founded the Zero-kai in 1952 with Akira Kanayama, Atsuko Tanaka, and Saburo Murakami, with a commitment to reexamine and challenge the conventions of art. In 1955, he joined the Gutai Association formed by fellow artist Jiro Yoshihara, with several members of the Zero-kai. He became known for his performances, in which he hung himself from the ceiling with a rope and painted over-sized canvases with his feet, or plunged into and wrestled with mud in order to create sculptural forms. With its call to originality, spontaneity, and challenging tradition, Shiraga became a representative artist of the Gutai movement. Toward the end of Gutai, which was disbanded with the death of Jiro Yoshihara in 1972, Shiraga deepened his spiritual practice by becoming a monk of the Tendai Buddhist sect. This inspired him to diversify his style of gestural painting, which began to include more esoteric and spiritual references.

Shiraga’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad through the 1960s until today, including solo retrospectives held at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art (2001), Yokosuka Museum of Art (2009), and most recently Dallas Museum of Art (2015). He passed away in Amagasaki in 2008.

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