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.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka
Petite Imabashi Gallery, Osaka
Haku Gallery, Osaka
Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Osaka
Whitestone Gallery, Tokyo
Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
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.
"12th Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Tokyo”
Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Osaka
Gutai Art Exhibition, Takashimaya Dept. Store, Osaka
Gutai Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka
Receives honourable mention at the 9th Shell Art Exhibition.
16th Gutai Exhibition, Keio Dept. Store, Tokyo
"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
4th International Young Artists Exhibition
18th Gutai Art Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka
Gutai, Heide Hildebrand Gallery, Wulfengasse, Austria
19th Gutai Art Exhibition, Central Museum, Tokyo
Gutai Small Works Exhibition, Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka
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)
Gutai Japan Expo '70, Midori Pavilion, Expo'70, Osaka
Yoshihara Jiro and His Circle, Fujimi Gallery, Osaka
18 Years of Gutai Art, Osaka Prefectural Gallery of Contemporary Art, Osaka
Jiro Yoshihara and Contemporary Aspects of Gutai, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kobe, Hyogo
Yoshihara Jiro and Gutai 1954-1972, Ashiya Civic Center, Ashiy
Wins grand prize in the IBM P.I. Exhibition, ABC Gallery, Osaka
10th Emba Prize Exhibition, Emba Museum of Chinese Modern Art, Ashiya
Women's '89, Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Osaka
Osaka Triennale 1990, My Dome, Osaka
Women's '91, Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Osaka
Gutai, Miyagi Prefectural Art Museum
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
50th Anniversary Gutai Retrospective, Hyogo
Prefectural Museum of Art, Hyogo
Avant-Garde Women 1950-1975, Tochigi
Prefectural Museum of Fine Art, Tochigi
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
Gutai: The Spirit of an Era, The National Art Center, Tokyo
Gutai: Splendid Playground, Guggenheim Museum, New York
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)