Photo Feature: Tetsumi Kudo Post-Apocalyptic Biomorphic Sculpture At Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth London are hosting an exhibition of works by Tetsumi Kudo (1935 – 1990) mounted in conjunction with Andrea Rosen Gallery. The installation was conceived with Olivier Renaud Clément. The exhibition presents a selection of work dating from the first ten years that Kudo spent in Paris (1963 – 1972). The seminal, room-size installation ‘Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule’ (1968) forms the exhibition’s focal point and is shown alongside examples from his cube and dome series.

The artist’s practice, encompassed sculpture, installation and performance-based work, was dominated by a sense of disillusionment with the modern world. Kudo questioned its blind faith in progress, technological advancement, and humanist ideals. The artist’s oeuvre transcends formal categorisation yet his work was consistently universal in its language – developed in the context of post-war Japan and France.

Image: Tetsumi Kudo, From The Votre Portrait Series. Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

The artist was a key figure of Tokyo’s Anti-Art Movement in the late 1950s, where his performative paintings and installations marked the beginning of his preoccupation with the impact of nuclear catastrophe and the excess of consumer society associated with the post-war economic boom. Kudo subsequently relocated to Paris in 1962, gaining recognition for his Happenings, but this exposure to the European intellectual scene also intensified his aversion to the modern agenda.

Image: Tetsumi Kudo, Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule, 1968. Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

The artist’s work manifested in the biomorphic sculptures and assemblages that Kudo produced from 1963, in which he sought to expose the limitations of the modernist and humanist values that defined the post-war era. In his cube series, small boxes contain decaying cocoons and shells revealing half-living forms – often replica limbs, detached phalli or papier-mâché organs – that merge with man-made items.

Image: Tetsumi Kudo, Installation View, Hauser & Wirth, 2015. Image Courtesy Of The Gallery.

These sculptures were intended as a comment on the individualistic outlook and eager adoption of mass-production which he found to be prevalent in Europe. The mutations are unnatural and impotent – a product of a post-apocalyptic world in which the synthentic triumphs over nature. The cube exteriors are painted as die, a nod to the idea that it is the random forces beyond our control that dictate life, rather than individual agency as western philosophy teaches.

The artist’s use of acrid greens and yellows suggest a highly polluted environment. What is being cultivated in these mini eco-systems is a grotesque fusion of the biological and mechanical. That it is decomposing is illustrative of Kudo’s feeling that with the pollution of nature comes the decomposition of humanity.

Image: Tetsumi Kudo, Your Portrait May 66, 1966. Image Courtesy Of The Gallery.

About the Artist:

Tetsumi Kudo was born in 1935 in Osaka, Japan, and spent a large portion of his youth in the town of Okayama, neighbour of Hiroshima. He graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts in 1958. In 1957, he began exhibiting his work at the Salon of Independents, Yomiuri and had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Blanche, Tokyo. He was awarded the Grand Prize and a travel grant to Paris through his participation in the 1962 Second International Young Artists Exhibition in Tokyo. He subsequently spent 25 years in Paris from 1962 to 1987 before returning to Japan. He died in Tokyo in 1990.

Kudo’s work is held in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Chiba City Art Museum, Kurashi City Art Museum, Aomori Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Vienna, Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, MoMA Museum of Modern Art and Walker Art Center, amongst others.

Lead Image: Tetsumi Kudo, Your Portrait May 66, 1966. Image Courtesy Of The Gallery.

Tetsumi Kudo – Hauser & Wirth, London – until 21 Nov 2015

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