Art

Miro's best critic shows with stars of Surrealism

Shuzo Takiguchi and friends retrospective

by Taylor Mignon

“Drifting Objects of Dreams: The Collection of Shuzo Takiguchi” is an exhibition which features the diversity of this famous Japanese artist and a host of collaborators. Though it started in the West, the Surrealist movement was expansive and noone, not even its founder-cum-leader Andre Breton, had a monopoly or license on the transcendental Surrealist spirit.

The art, as well as the many artistic friendships of Takiguchi (1903-79), which are extensively documented by this exhibition, exemplify the creativity that Breton championed. Nationality wasn’t a concern: reaching for the unknown and throwing light on the dark recesses of the art world were.

Takiguchi was at first only acknowledged by the cosmopolitan Surrealists. Japanese critics didn’t take notice of his scholarly and creative work until he was arrested by the Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu — the Japanese police force specializing in “thought crimes” — for practicing revolutionary artistic activities in 1941. And it wasn’t until his famed meeting with Andre Breton in 1958 that his reputation was properly cemented.

Takiguchi was just 25 when he translated and commented on Breton’s “First Manifesto of Surrealism” (1924). In the 1920s and ’30s, Takiguchi wrote poems and criticism for seven Surrealist artists in a book titled “The Poetic Experiments of Takiguchi Shuzo: 1927-1937” (published by Shinchosha). In 1940, Takiguchi published the first critical monograph on Miro in the world. The artist humorously repaid his kindness by giving Takiguchi an odd “ready-made” in the form of a swan-shaped gourd. The fertile artistic exchange between the two is very much in evidence throughout the exibition — in the form of an hommage, a tribute painting to Takiguchi from Miro and several collaborative works.

Other collaborations in the same vein, with Jasper Johns, Jean Tinguely and George Mathius, are also on show here. These paintings are inscribed to Takiguchi lending the canvases a warm, personal feel. From among Takiguchi’s comrades there are works here by Salvador Dali — striking original pencil sketches for “Matador’s Dream” — a few by Sam Francis and one by Jean Arp. Rare examples of Man Ray’s color photo experiments in the 1950s impressively brighten a corner of the museum.

Exhibition curator Etsuko Sugiyama admitted that the effect of assembling so many works by artist friends of Takiguchi is somewhat chaotic. But considering the nature of the Surrealist movement and Takiguchi’s methods in art-making, a haphazard presentation of the work is hardly inappropriate.

Takiguchi seems to have been one of the rare artists who could bridge both Japanese and Western movements, and his connections in the Japanese artworld were unsurpassed. Takiguchi first “discovered” Yayoi Kusama’s talent in the 1950s and was one of the few supporters of her work at the time. Composer Toru Takemitsu was a member of the artist’s Experimental Workshop group, so his paintings and musical scores are displayed.

In 1966, Takiguchi joined the arts group Environment with Yoko Tadanori and others, and several of Tadanori’s famous posters are also on display. At this exhibition, the arts of poetry, painting and drawing, photography, sculpture, music, theater, modern dance, ballet and film all rub shoulders, but without being abrasive.

Takiguchi’s main techniques in composition: decalcomanie (a technique consisting of paper soaked with turpentine and oil color), roto-dessin, burnt drawings and pen works are shown, plus the objets (the one dedicated to Paul Klee is appealing), so his artistic oeuvre is well-covered.

The decalcomanie works are fascinating, as if your subconscious were being magically illuminated. Takiguchi’s most intriguing works combine one or more methods with different materials and juxtapositions. Some of these are intimately charged, such as those that are in the form of gifts to or from his far-flung artistic spiritual family. Be sure to check out the museum schedule for dance performances and a decalcomanie-making workshop in the next few months, events which will perhaps inspire you to give your own work of art to the one you love.