According to cancermatters, the Japanese avant-garde art landscape in the early 1960s was almost dominated by the Gutai group, generated by the informal atmosphere of the 1950s, and, in the following decade, by Monoha, which can be considered an art form Japanese conceptual. By maturing a diversity from the West, both groups managed to achieve the originality that had been lacking in modern Japanese art from the Meiji period onwards.
Analyzing the art of the Eighties, one cannot help but notice how the poetry of the objects left by Gutai and his performances have enormously marked the developments of subsequent Japanese art. Likewise, the interest in materials present in Monoha research has remained alive in the numerous new trends that have appeared in recent years.
In post- Monoha Japanese art, individuality in artists seems to have strengthened and group-centered artistic activity has almost disappeared. This is partly due to the sense of isolation and indifference between individuals in today’s Japanese society.
In the 1960s, New Painting arrived from the West, but despite the abundant information that accompanied it, it did not become a dominant trend in Japan Only a small number of artists joined it, including T. Yokō and S. Otake; moreover, it ran out in a short time. The lack of a critic to support it and bring it to the fore certainly contributed to this, but the main cause must be attributed to the fact that in a country like Japan, where the avant-garde had always been considered inaccessible to the mass, the New Painting it had no reason to appear, as in Europe and America, as a new artistic expression of the world of intellectuals. It is rather worthy of special mention that art, with its progressive penetration into mass society, has come to invade the world of graphics and images, and often to propose itself in the field of mass media. This is a phenomenon sustained above all by the younger generations.
In the field of the avant-garde, the research aimed at analyzing the relationships between materials and images seems not to be exhausted yet; in particular the tendency to model new spaces using wood, paper, textile fibers and other materials traditionally present in the daily life of the Japanese, continues to attract the attention not only of artists active since the 1950s, but also of numerous Young people. Among these, T. Kawamata and T. Hoshina were the first, at the beginning of the Eighties, to express themselves with installations; this trend then strengthened towards 1984-85. In this line, Y. Kitatsuji, Y. Kitayama, T. Endō, C. Senzaki and K. Kenmochi have achieved good results.
Even in the second half of the Eighties, extensive research and experimentation continued through the use of various materials, and interest in three-dimensional works that, placed within a space, shape it while remaining independent has increased. From it. In this direction work artists who since the seventies have come doing an excellent job such as, for example, N. Haraguchi and I. Wakabayashi who work with iron; I. Kōshō who uses pottery; K. Kiyomizu, Y. Iida and H. Yasuda using steel; N. Hikosaka, K. Uematsu, Y. Saito and S. Toya expressing themselves with wood; H. Nagasawa, T. Tuchiya, S. Muraoka, K. Okazaki, K. Enokura and K. Yoshida using assorted materials; and again T. Kudō, Y. Kusama and U. Shinohara who through the use of textile fibers create pop works.
Among the artists who carry out their research in the field of painting, alongside the names of N. Nakanishi, S. Arakawa, K. Usami, U Fan Lee, K. Hori and J. Takamatsu, we should mention T. Tatsuno, N. Sakaguchi and S. Watanabe, belonging to a younger generation, up to F. Masuda. Furthermore, as image artists we cannot forget K. Yamaguchi, K. Yamamoto, F. Nakaya, K. Nakajima and Y. Kawaguchi who work in the field of video art and video installations.
The thesis, supported above all by foreigners, that the oriental tradition must live in the works of Japanese artists, is losing credence. This request is perceived as inconvenient and as such rejected in particular by the artists who work in the avant-garde; however, they should have no reason to show such disapproval because, in fact, their Japanese nature is unconsciously reflected in the works.
A purely Japanese emotionality and a sense of space different from that of the West are in fact also visible in the creations of numerous avant-garde artists. The theme of the need to restore a relationship between man and nature, as a consequence of the technological development and economic growth of recent years, seems to characterize today’s Japanese art in an original way. This has been joined by the international trend of postmodernism, and there are numerous artists who associate a sort of primitivism and a kitsch character to their work: just mention the names of K. Ueno, N. Itō, H. Kamo and N. Yasuda .
Finally, we remember K. Funakoshi and S. Toya, two of the three artists who represented Japan at the 1988 Venice Biennale. The first is a figurative sculptor who expresses in his works the melancholy and simple emotions of the people who lives in today’s cities; Toya models mysterious forms, placing a kind of animistic divinity in the masses of natural trees; finally T. Miyajima, present in the ” Aperto 88 ” section of the Venice Biennale itself, is an artist who, using high technology, creates an extremely advanced world, which is expressed in the click of numbers. The works of these three young artists already constitute a model of what the Japanese avant-garde will be in the nineties.