“Reconstructions: Avant-Garde Art in Japan, 1945–1965”

Modern Art Oxford

Since World War II, Japanese art has undergone a transformation as radical as any in the West, from which it somewhat derives. The socialist realism of official

war artists was quickly ousted by expressionistic depictions of devastation and the similarly macabre subject matter of the surrealists, who had been suppressed during the war for their suspected liaison with the communist faction. Among the latter, Kikuji Yamashita tried to be controversially distasteful in his raw and often inane paintings of social injustices. Human vulnerability was treated with more finesse by surrealists such as Shigeo Ishii, On Kawara, and Tatsuo Ikeda, who clung grimly to a perhaps unfashionable esthetic delicacy. The hint of agreement among these artists on a common theme masked a fierce debate about pictorial content. “Why don’t they see that the spirit of our time can be expressed even by a flower?”

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