Monday, March 05, 2007

La Maison Rouge Presents Tetsumi Kudo

La Maison Rouge Presents Tetsumi Kudo

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Tetsumi Kudo, Votre portrait Chrysalide, 1966, Collection Eric Fabre.

PARIS, FRANCE.- La Maison Rouge presents Tetsumi Kudo - The mountain we’re looking for is in the greenhouse, curated by Anne Tronche and on view through May 13th, 2007. A Japanese artist who moved to France in 1962, Tetsumi Kudo's first works were part of the Neo-Dada current which, in nineteen-fifties Tokyo, looked for ways to mix performances and installations that gave new importance to the object. The singular nature of Kudo's world was made evident in Philosophy of Impotence, his first Paris happening. Prompting doubt and defiance, both his acts and his objects question human freedom in hyper-mediatized modern society. Using every instrument of control, from box to cage, from deposit receipt to transistorised garden, he set out to recount the metamorphosis of modern man. An ironic narrator, in the different stages of his work Kudo considers the bio-chemical survival of the human phenomenon and envisages its organic transformation. Heads are locked in cages, human limbs are connected to plants by electronic circuits, hands are held captive in an aquarium because Kudo cultivated, with perverse refinement, a sense of humour and cruelty. In his world, man and technology are not in opposition. Raised together, they engender a new culture which he named "new ecology". Man as we knew him has disappeared from Kudo's world, despite the flowers, cigarettes and crucifixes, the last remaining souvenirs of a long-ago existence. A new world takes its place, a world that no doubt remembers the unbearable violence of Hiroshima and which resolutely drapes itself in fluorescent colours.

Described by Alain Jouffroy as an "Objector" in 1965, Kudo showed his ability to associate, in a disconcerting manner, the disciplines which preside over all new forms of research, beginning with art, ecology, technology and fundamental science. His last works, made with coloured wires, are about "black holes" and represent structural relations between the two worlds of East and West. At a time when the body becomes an experimental medium for contemporary creation through artificial limbs, cyber appendages, and attributes in chrome or latex, when it comes to us encircled by genetics, cloning and new technologies, Kudo's work reveals and elucidates his remarkable intuitions.

The first major showing of Kudo's work in France, this exhibition is an opportunity to retrace the artist's trajectory from his arrival in France to the years before his death in 1990. Certain of the works, including some from European collections, have rarely been shown before.

The exhibition opens with Philosophy of Impotence. This was the first installation presented in France as part of a happening initiated by Jean-Jacques Lebel in 1962, and entitled “Pour conjurer l’esprit de Catastrophe” (“Exorcising the spirit of Catastrophe”). Dark-coloured, bandaged phallic shapes hang in clusters from the ceiling like bizarre stalactites to create a sort of "penetration" with the elements that attach them. On the day the show opened in 1962, Kudo gave a performance in which he appeared with his body bound in ropes. Photos shown as large posters recall the highlights of the performance.

Following this installation is Garden of the Metamorphosis in the Space Capsule. This is a large blue cube whose walls, marked with white dots, suggest the different faces of a die. Inside the cube, which is illuminated with fluorescent lighting, the visitor finds a box filled with cocoons, a cage holding organic debris, a cube filled with everyday objects, and flowers growing out of a part of the floor made to resemble human skin. This work, the last in a cycle of dice-like cubes, summarizes one of the main themes of Kudo's art: despite what man may think, he is not the master of his destiny –chance is.

Other cubes of variable dimensions were created between 1962 and 1966. Either attached to the walls or standing in columns, they are dispersed throughout the surrounding space. Most open up to reveal cocoons or body parts (mouths, brains, eyeballs) which appear to be kept alive by electronic circuits. Everyday objects are also present: alarm clocks, sunglasses (for protection from radiation), tea balls, etc., all of which ironically evoke the slow death of individuals in closed spaces entirely controlled by an all-powerful technological presence. For a group show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1976, the artist wrote a text which sheds light on the function he intended to give his cubes: “…We are born from a box (the womb), live our lives in a box (an apartment) and after death we end up in a box (a coffin).”

The space reserved for these cubes and boxes opens onto two rooms bathed in black light. The objects here, from different periods and of variable sizes, have been coloured with fluorescent paint. Through this luminous and chromatic process, which he frequently used throughout the 1960s and 70s, Kudo sought to dematerialize the surrounding space and to give his works the power of incongruous apparitions which optically invert the memory of white shadows on the walls of Hiroshima. The half-melted remains of bodies on two brightly-coloured lounge chairs (Votre Portrait Mai 66, loaned by SMAK in Ghent) emphasize the detachment of which Kudo was capable, enabling him to turn horror into black humour, cruelty into an energy which surges from the absurd. These skin-like remnants, which represent the "evaporation" of human forms, are protecting their endangered existence under a parasol. In this environment – where black light sometimes takes on the appearance of a death ray – eyes, bald heads, penises, pressure gauges and radios are preserved in cages. In these small, modern temples where humanity lies in ruins, the artist often places artificial flowers in an almost complete state of decomposition. The chrysanthemums that poke between the bars of the cages, painted pink and green in a gesture of perverse refinement, suggest a new era of technology, pollution and artifice.

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