‘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
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.