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Kazuo Shiraga

Kazuo Shiraga, <em>Tenhorin</em>, 1974, oil on paper laid on panel, 72.7 x 60.6 cm
Kazuo Shiraga, Tenhorin, 1974, oil on paper laid on panel, 72.7 x 60.6 cm

Born in Amagasaki in 1924, Kazuo Shiraga is most famous for his action-driven practices, including paintings created using his feet. These foot paintings, which explore the connection between spirituality, body, and matter, are filled with a visceral energy.
Although he trained as a classical Nihonga painter at the Kyoto Municipal Special School of Painting, he co-founded Zero Society (Zero-kai) in 1952 with Akira Kanayama, Atsuko Tanaka, and Saburo Murakami, committed to reexamining and challenging the conventions of art. In 1955, together with several members of Zero Society, he joined the Gutai Art Association (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) formed by fellow artist, Jiro Yoshihara. He became known for his performances, in which he hung himself from the ceiling with a rope and painted over-sized canvases with his feet, or plunged into and wrestled with mud in order to create sculptural forms. Shiraga became a representative artist of the Gutai movement and its call for originality, spontaneity, and challenging tradition. Toward the end of Gutai, which was disbanded with the death of Jiro Yoshihara in 1972, Shiraga deepened his spiritual practice by becoming a monk of the Tendai Buddhist sect. This inspired him to diversify his style of gestural painting, which began to include more esoteric and spiritual references.
Shiraga’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, from the 1960s until today, including solo retrospectives held at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art (2001) and the Yokosuka Museum of Art (2009). He passed away in Amagasaki in 2008.