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Zachary Heinzerling, Action Is Art: A Study of Ushio Shinohara’s Boxing Painting, 2012, digital video, color, sound, 5 minutes.

Ushio Shinohara

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art (SDMA)

Zachary Heinzerling, Action Is Art: A Study of Ushio Shinohara’s Boxing Painting, 2012, digital video, color, sound, 5 minutes.

When Sonny Rollins shaved his hair into a Mohawk in 1958, he was declaring solidarity with American Indians. When, that year in Tokyo, Ushio Shinohara did the same, it wasn’t clear what the gesture meant. An early drawing (also 1958) in “Shinohara Pops!: The Avant-Garde Road, Tokyo/New York,” the artist’s recent retrospective at the Dorsky Museum, provides a clue. The self-portrait, titled Danmo and Beat Painterdanmo a hip inversion of modan, as in “modern jazz”—shows the artist, hair shaved into a Mohawk, smoking a cigarette in a bar. Hanging behind his funky head like a caption is a poster naming bebop legend Art Blakey.

Shinohara soon became a media star, featured in magazines and on television programs as the “rockabilly painter” and epitome of youth culture’s joie de vivre. He donned hand-wraps or gloves for the cameras, dipped his fists in ink or paint, and began

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