Yuko Nasaka
Osaka, Japan 1938

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Japanese artist Yuko Nasaka (1938) best known for her modular relief sculptures in wood and resin, was one of the few female members of the Gutai Art Association. Throughout the 1960’s Japan underwent an industrial transformation with the influence of WWII. During that time a new generation of artist submerged including Yuko Nasaka who started experimenting with technology and cutting-edge industrial materials. Her goal was never to restore a tradition – Which she greatly respects – but rather to create something new and thus give body. “Be original and do something that had never been done”. 

 

Born in Osaka in 1938, Yuko Nasaka was one of the first and few women to be invited by leader Jiro Yoshihara to join the Gutai Art Association in 1963. The Gutai group is the most significant avant-garde collective of the post-war era, founded by a group of young artists and their leader, Jiro Yoshihara in Ashiya, Japan in 1954. The kanji used to write 'gu' meaning tool, measures, or a way of doing something, while 'tai' means body. Yoshihara considers it to mean "embodiment" and "concreteness." The group is best known for its experimental approach to art, which combines performance, painting and environmental installations, and its restless pursuit of individualism and creativity.  

 

“It is our desire to embody the fact that our spirit is free. It is also our hope that no restrictions will be placed on the desire to experience fresh sensations through every form of expression,”

– Gutai Manifesto, 1956  

 

The group dissolved in 1972 following the death of Yoshihara. There was a retrospective exhibition of their work at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1999. The Gutai group started to gain more public recognition after a ground-breaking exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2013, following several important museum and gallery shows such as ‘Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde,’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and ‘Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962’ at LAMOCA. The Art market has also recognised the importance of this post-war art movement and organised special exhibitions and sales such as ‘Avant Garde Asia: Gutai and its Legacy’ at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, March 2015 and ‘Full Circle – Yoshihara Jiro Collection’ at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, October 2015.  

 

Yuko Nasaka is best known for her modular relief sculptures in wood and resin. Throughout the 1960’s Japan underwent an industrial transformation with the influence of WWII. During that time a new generation of artist submerged including Yuko Nasaka who started experimenting with technology and cutting-edge industrial materials. Her goal was never to restore a tradition – Which she greatly respects – but rather to create something new and thus give body. “Be original and do something that has never been done”. 

 

Nasaka's later body of work featured concentric circles manifested through reliefs. She grounded her practices through technological experimentation and used innovative industrial materials for her time. Nasaka's process involved the use of a rotating plate, a tool that was handmade for her. The tool resembles an electric pottery wheel combined with a turntable.  She then used resin cement to create circular patterns, and then airbrushes the circles with resin and lacquer. No panel is the same, as each piece denotes a different sphere, color or texture.  

 

Nasaka's concentric circle series, and exemplifies Naska's concern for the relationship between industrialisation and humanity. She juxtaposed these ironic notions together to question the direction of humanity, particularly given the circumstances of burgeoning industry and technology.  

 

Through her art, Nasaka was able to transcend certain social barriers and expectations that women in faced at that time in Japan and her work continues to illuminate a poetic balance between art, technological advancement and their relationship to the human experience. 

 

Artist : Yuko Nasaka
Title : Work 38-1 (1963) 
Dimension : 90.5 x 90.5 cm 
Media : Mixed media (resin and lacquer) on board

 

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 

 

1964  

Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka  

 

1969   

Petite Imabashi Gallery, Osaka  

 

1984   

Haku Gallery, Osaka  

 

1985   

Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Osaka  

 

2014  

Whitestone Gallery, Tokyo  

 

2015   

Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp

 

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS  

 

1962  

Receives the Mayor's Prize in the 15th Ashiya City Exhibition, Ashiya Seido Elementary School.      

 

Shows work with holes in it at the 47th Nika Exhibition, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art.     

 

Shows work in the inaugural exhibition at Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka.  

 

1963  

"12th Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Tokyo”     

 

Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Osaka     

 

Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Osaka  

 

1965  

Gutai Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka     

 

Receives honourable mention at the 9th Shell Art Exhibition.     

 

16th Gutai Exhibition, Keio Dept. Store, Tokyo  

 

1966  

"Nul 1966”, Internationale Galerie OREZ, The Hague, The Netherlands     

 

Gutai Small Works Exhibition, Galerie Mickerey, Loenersloot, The Netherlands     

 

2e Salon International des Galeries Pilotes Lausanne, Musee Cantonal des Beaux-Arts Palais de Rumine, Lausanne     

Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Yokohama; travels to Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka.        

 

Mainichi Art Competition for French Exchange Student Program  

 

1967  

4th International Young Artists Exhibition     

 

18th Gutai Art Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka 

 

1967  

Gutai, Heide Hildebrand Gallery, Wulfengasse, Austria     

 

19th Gutai Art Exhibition, Central Museum, Tokyo     

 

Gutai Small Works Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka  

 

1968  

20th Gutai Art Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka     

 

21st Gutai Art Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka     

 

Nighttime-Only Gutai Exhibition, Miyazaki Kanko Hotel, Miyazaki     

 

Gutai Small Works Exhibition, Gitai Pinacotheca, Osaka     

 

2nd 100-person Contemporary Art in Osaka Exhibition (Ano Gallery, Shinanobashi Gallery, Osaka)  

 

1970  

Gutai Japan Expo '70, Midori Pavilion, Expo'70, Osaka  

 

1972  

Yoshihara Jiro and His Circle, Fujimi Gallery, Osaka  

 

1976  

18 Years of Gutai Art, Osaka Prefectural Gallery of Contemporary Art, Osaka  

 

1979  

Jiro Yoshihara and Contemporary Aspects of Gutai, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kobe, Hyogo  

 

1985  

Yoshihara Jiro and Gutai 1954-1972, Ashiya Civic Center, Ashiy  

 

1987  

Wins grand prize in the IBM P.I. Exhibition, ABC Gallery, Osaka  

 

1988   

10th Emba Prize Exhibition, Emba Museum of Chinese Modern Art, Ashiya  

 

1989  

Women's '89, Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Osaka  

 

1990  

Osaka Triennale 1990, My Dome, Osaka  

 

1991  

Women's '91, Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Osaka  

 

1992  

Gutai, Miyagi Prefectural Art Museum  

 

1993  

Gutai i 1959-1965, Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, Ashiya     

 

Gutai ii 1959-1965, Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, Ashiya     

 

Osaka Triennale 1993, My Dome, Osaka  

 

2004  

50th Anniversary Gutai Retrospective, Hyogo      

 

Prefectural Museum of Art, Hyogo  

 

2005  

Avant-Garde Women 1950-1975, Tochigi      

 

Prefectural Museum of Fine Art, Tochigi  

 

2008  

Women Artists in Osaka, 20th Century Art from Japanese-style Bijinga Paintings to the Postwar Avant-garde, Shinsaibashi Exhibition Room, Osaka City Museum Planning Office  

 

2012  

Gutai: The Spirit of an Era, The National Art Center, Tokyo 

 

2013  

Gutai: Splendid Playground, Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

COLLECTIONS  

 

The Ashiya City Museum of Art & History (Hyogo, japan)  

 

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art (Hyogo), Osaka City  

 

Museum of Fine Arts (Osaka, Japan), The Miyagi Museum of Art (Miyagi, Japan)  

 

Guggenheim Museum (New York) 

 

Portrait of Yuko Nasaka in front of her large scale work taken by Kazuo Shiraga during her solo exhibition at the Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka, 1964.