The Warehouse’s “Parallel Views” of Postwar Italian and Japanese Art

“The [Japanese Mono-ha] works that resembled European tendencies seem to have arisen independently, testifying to the power of the zeitgeist, the dynamic, expansive atmosphere of the age, that led to simultaneous developments of a similar kind in different parts of the world.”—Lee Ufan

As Lee Ufan compares Japanese Mono-ha and Italian Arte Povera, he points to a trend found throughout the history of art: indirect yet distinct parallels between Eastern and Western art. These parallels are palpable upon entering The Warehouse’s recent exhibition “Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s” in Dallas. Through a vast, comprehensive selection of works from The Rachofsky Collection, The Amy and Vernon Faulconer Collection, and the Dallas Museum of Art, the exhibition offers a series of intriguing juxtapositions between Japanese and Italian artworks from the early postwar period.

The show (and collection) curator Allan Schwartzman explains that the exhibition’s origins are closely tied to the development of The Rachofsky Collection. Groups of Italian and Japanese art accumulated separately, and later in response to one another, due to intrinsic parallels and compelling comparisons. Included in the collection are many works from the Japanese artists groups Gutai and Mono-ha, as well as Italian Arte Povera, all of which share a similar spirit of investigation.

Within the show, the galleries reflect the separate Japanese and Italian postwar tracks, while also representing specific, comparable parallels. One gallery represents the powerful impulse to test materiality found in both countries’ art at the time, through Lee Ufan’s Relatum, a large stone that the artist dropped onto glass, surrounded by four slashed and punctured Concetto Spaziale canvases by Lucio Fontana.

Another gallery is dedicated to six powerful and expressive works—three on canvas and three on paper—by Gutai artist Shozo Shimamoto. Schwartzman first encountered Shimamoto while pursuing Lunedi, Martedi, Mercoledi (1963) by Arte Povera artist Jannis Kounellis (also in the show). He was stricken by the interaction between the Kounellis work and a Shimamoto canvas with dramatic gaping holes in it. The Shimamoto works on view in “Parallel Views,” show that like Fontana, the Japanese artist was interested in the surface of the canvas, not only through making gashes but also by applying copious layers and splashes of vibrant paint, something he often achieved through launching a glass bottle of paint at the canvas.

While Gutai was concerned with creating original paintings through performative means, Arte Povera sought to break free of national and historical ties to painting and art in its most classical sense. This Italian impulse is blatantly manifest in Giulio Paolini’s L’altra Figura. The sculptural work consists of two classical busts on pedestals that look downwards at the shattered pieces of a third bust that are scattered on the floor.

Though works from Italy and Japan are compared throughout much of the exhibition, they are also recognized independently and with relevant works from Europe and the U.S., ultimately offering a survey of postwar art on its own terms. 

Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s” on view at the Warehouse, Dallas, Texas.

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