‘Gutai: Splendid Playground’: The Guggenheim’s timeless new exhibition

Motonaga Sadamasa's installation "Work (Water" on display in the Guggenheim's current exhibition "Gutai: Splendid Playground," running through May 8
Motonaga Sadamasa’s installation “Work (Water),” on display in the Guggenheim’s current exhibition “Gutai: Splendid Playground,” running through May 8

Keep a dollar bill handy when you visit “Gutai: Splendid Playground,” the newest exhibition presented at the Guggenheim Museum. You’ll need one to trade the attendant for a token to use “Gutai Card Box,” a 1962 interactive piece refurbished for 2013 that dispenses small painted postcards. Four quarters won’t cut it. Try to score a token with a dollar in change, and the work’s attendant will inform you the $1 note policy is a non-negotiable “part of the performance of the piece.” The 145 works on display, created by 25 artists of Japan’s Gutai art collective between 1954 and 1972, range from the witty, the evocative, and the befuddling.

The name ‘gutai,’ or concreteness, refers to the incorporation of non-traditional objects and materials into art – a common trait in Gutai works. In one example, Shirago Kazuo’s “Challenging Mud,” the artist used his body to physically etch a design into a canvas of mud, which was later displayed alongside photos of the creative process. Tanaka’s “Electric Dress” is a wearable dress made of multi-colored light bulbs. The exhibition’s most visually dominant piece, “Work (Water),” was conceived specifically for the Guggenheim by Motonaga Sadamasa. A series of transparent tubes filled with brightly dyed water criss-crossing the rotunda far above the visitors’ heads, the installation tugs the eye upwards through the whimsically draped plastic all the way to the museum’s iconic skylight.

North America’s first-ever Gutai retrospective, “Splendid Playground” runs through May 8, 2013 and includes both classic and several newly commissioned, site-specific works by Gutai artists. Founded by Japanese artist Yoshihara Jiro, the collective generated one of avant-garde’s most influential movements of the post-World War II era. In a society newly freed from the bonds of totalitarianism, Jiro challenged his protégés to express freedom and agency through art. Co-curator Ming Tiampo credits Gutai’s enduring relevance to its playful, experimental spirit. “I think young artists have been responding with great enthusiasm to this work,” she said. “Although it was made in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it feels like it was just made yesterday.”

If the art itself doesn’t betray the Gutai movement’s age, inflation does. In 1962, Gutai Card Box only cost the viewer a 10-yen coin to activate – about 11 cents. No need for a paper bill to swing that.

If You Go:
“Gutai: Splendid Playground”
Through May 8
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue
$18-$22, 212-423-3500
www.guggenheim.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.