Visit to New York February 2013
Gutai: Splendid Playground, Guggenheim Museum, New York (15 February - 8 May 2013)
Gutai: Splendid Playground (2013), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, photo courtesy of David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
In February, nineteen undergraduate and graduate students from the art history department at Carleton University ventured on a one-week adventure to New York City. Our professor of museum studies, Ming Tiampo, organized the trip in conjunction with Gutai: Splendid Playground, an exhibition she co-curated at the Guggenheim Museum with Samsung Senior Curator Alexandra Munroe. The first in-depth exhibition of the work created by the post-WW2 group of Japanese artists, Gutai: Splendid Playground presents 145 works spanning the group’s wide-ranging experimentation and effectively upsets the Western post-war art historical narrative while asserting Gutai’s place in a transnational modernism. Employing painting, performance, and interactive installations, Gutai (which translates into “concreteness”) considers how the human body responds to material objects, and in what way this interaction becomes a collaborative, participatory endeavor. Founded in 1954 by Yoshihara Jiro, Gutai artists experimented with avant-garde methods of art making until his death in 1972.
During the week, we spent a great deal of time at the Guggenheim Museum and its off-site facilities, participating in a series of workshops with the curatorial team. There was also time to explore the city’s other art institutions and offerings. On 12 February, we participated in a two-hour tour of the ever popular and always trendy Chelsea galleries. Undeterred by the rainy afternoon ahead of us, Merrily Kerr (freelance art critic, educator at Marymount Manhattan College, and founder of New York Art Tours) steered the class towards seven different galleries located amidst converted warehouse spaces and construction sites. Engaging and approachable, Kerr is a knowledgeable individual with a good eye for the contemporary art scene, showing us works by both emerging and established artists. The following is a selection of galleries we visited, highlighted by some of their most interesting works of art.