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The Gutai Seen Through a Zen Lens Essay

The Gutai Group are well known for their actions and have been considered by many a link between western contemporary art movements and contemporary eastern art. In February of 1998 the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York exhibited Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979. In the exhibition catalog, of the same name, the Gutai Group is discussed extensively as a new tradition of action artists who were developing and practicing similar work as the likes of Pollock and Kaprow.

Little heed is taken to examine the traditions that the artists came from, were influence by, and inevitably continued. Though the Gutai Group is considered a rebellious group of artists who broke from tradition, when looking back, many links between Japanese art before World War II[1] and the group’s work are found. Most of these links can be seen when a close reading of the Gutai Group Manifesto is viewed from a Zen Buddhist perspective. It will be seen that the Gutai Group, though unorthodox, created artwork that is at the very least influence if not actually representative of Zen artwork.

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