Funny and Dark: Tetsumi Kudo’s Sculpture at Andrea Rosen Gallery

Tetsumi Kudo’s first solo gallery show in the U.S. at Andrea Rosen includes works that highlight the creative output of this important and often overlooked sculpture, installation and performance artist.

poster for Tetsumi Kudo Exhibition

Tetsumi Kudo Exhibition

at Andrea Rosen Gallery (525 W 24th St)
in the Chelsea 24th area
This event has ended - (2008-06-20 - 2008-08-15)

In Reviews by Teri Duerr 2008-07-21 print

Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery. © ADAGP, Paris & ARS, New York.

Visitors to the Andrea Rosen gallery are met early on with their own warped reflection emerging from a radioactive muck at the center of Your Portrait (1965-66). And so begins entry into Tetsumi Kudo’s world of disembodied parts, fading synthetic gardens, and holistic cycles of decay and regeneration, where our struggle against time and nature (human and otherwise) reveals itself to be like our own reflection, a bit ugly, a bit sad, and a bit funny all at once. The show, curated by Joshua Mack, is Kudo’s first solo showing in the U.S. and includes works from 1965 to 1988 that highlight the creative output of this important Japanese sculpture, installation and performance artist during his 25 years living and working in Paris.

'Your Portrait' (1972-73). Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery. © ADAGP, Paris & ARS, New York.
Born in 1935, Kudo was deeply affected as a child by WWII and the U.S. atomic attacks on Japan. He first surfaced as an active figure in Han-Geijutsu, the Japanese anti-art movement of the ’60s, but his emigration to Paris in 1962 marked the arrival of new influences for the artist, ranging from French Nouveau Réalisme to the European Fluxus movement. Throughout his career Kudo incorporated elements of Neo-Dadaism, Pop Art, and Japanese Postmodernism, but remained outside of any artistic or political movements. His body of work is akin to the self-made worlds of artists like Yayoi Kusama or Joseph Beuys, with their own symbolic languages and social commentaries. The pieces exhibited at Andrea Rosen, like his three-decade career, resist easy categorization—'Cultivation in Nature - People Who are Looking at It' (1970). Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery. © ADAGP, Paris & ARS, New York.perhaps one of the reasons this late artist’s work remains relatively unknown in the U.S.

Kudo addresses themes of commodification, impotency, illness and despair brought on by the increasingly technological and commercialized world of the ’60s and ’70s in a series of birdcage works including: Your Portrait (1972-73), where songbirds reveal themselves to be amputated phalluses, bereft of strength, caged and on display; Portrait of an Artist in Crisis (1976), in which a deflated cartoon of a mask attempts to paint a pile of excrement while being encircled by captive creatures, heart and phallus; and Meditation in the Endlesstape of the Future<-->Past (1979), where two spools of magnetic tape and a sea of colorful “thought” string seems to swirl endlessly around a caged head.

On the loose elsewhere in the gallery are more parts and pieces. Phalluses sprout from soil in buckets and terrariums in Cultivation in Nature – People Who are Looking at It (1970), and inch up the stems of wilting flowers in Pollution-Cultivation-Nouvelle Écologie (1971). Arms and legs sprout from young trees in a macabre “Grafted Garden,” and eyeballs stare up at viewers from the bottom of a mirrored bucket in Cultivation of Nature and People Who are Looking at It” (1971). These pieces are at once remnants of something dead or destroyed while already fodder for something new, growing, and perhaps alien and unknown. Kudo’s references to the self and to his viewers ask us to consider where we fit into this “new ecology” of a transforming world.

Before his passing in 1990, Kudo’s work became increasingly concerned with Eastern philosophies of contemplation, spirituality and interconnectedness. Portrait of Tetsumi Kudo, August 20, 1981. Courtesy of Walker Art Center. © Shigeo Anzai.The Zen-like theme of the life-death continuum apparent throughout his career began to manifest itself in more abstract shapes and an increased use of colored strings and analog tape as symbols for connections, thoughts and energies. The Survival of the Avant-garde (1985) is one of those latter pieces present at Andrea Rosen. A human skull rests on the floor in the middle of an almost insect-shaped body of tangled string (The Metamorphosis is another of Kudo’s favorite themes). Some viewers liken the corpse to a melted atomic bomb victim, a psychic ghost of Kudo’s past. Others, with an ironic nod towards its title, see it as a clever commentary on the end of an era. Still some can’t help but think of Kudo’s own lifelong endeavor to forge a unique humanistic language throughout the course of his life. In true Kudo style, we’re not quite sure if what is before us is survival, or death, or a transformation into something else entirely. The essence at the center of this piece seems as if has been destroyed, but perhaps it has just been set free.

Andrea Rosen Gallery

Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) presents “Tetsumi Kudo: Garden of Metamorphosis”
The late Japanese artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States, premieres at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, October 18, 2008–January 11, 2009.

Teri Duerr

Teri Duerr. Teri lives in Brooklyn where she co-runs Horse+Dragon NYC, a boutique agency that puts creative talents to work on publicity, editing, design, and events/exhibitions for artists, writers and nonprofit friends. She has spent much of the last year launching publicity campaigns for films at Tribeca, Sundance, SXSW, MoMA, and for television broadcast. In addition to being a contributing editor for the highly dubious culture publication Chief Magazine, and a book reviews editor for Mystery Scene, she spent four years as director and editorial mentor for the Minneapolis teen girls’ magazine Chicas in the Mix, followed In 2000 by editor in chief posts at events & culture magazines Tokyo Scene and Kansai Scene in Japan. Her editorial and photo production work has appeared in places like Best Life, The Source, Men’s Health, Organic Style, Vogue Korea, Vogue China, and most recently Tom Tom Magazine and CODE. » See other writings


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