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Taro Okamoto’s “Men Aflame” (1955) is a swirling fusion of figuration, surrealism and abstraction. The content addresses the irradiation of Japanese sailors onboard the Dai-go Fukuryu-maru by fallout from American nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll. The painting is part of the 1950s Japanese art movement known as “reportage.” It was serious art — politically engaged, socially conscious and outraged.

“Art informel” (unformed art) of the later 1950s swept aside reportage and everything else with such apparent force that it was refered to as a whirlwind or typhoon. It was, however, largely a generational development in abstract painting.

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