Graduates from Kansai University

Becomes teacher at Yodo Commercial High School in Osaka


Becomes teacher at Osaka Toyosaki Junior High School


Graduates in Economy from Ritsumeikan University


Wins Sakura Prize at the 7th Ashiya Exhibition (Awarded the prize also for the following 5 years)

2nd Genbi Exhibition (Osaka, Matsuzakaya)


7th Yomiuri Independent Exhibition (Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum)

Experimental Outdoor Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Mid-Summer Sun.

Enters Gutai Movement

1st Gutai Exhibition (Tokyo, Ohara Kaikan). Participates consecutively to all the following Gutai Exhibitions

5th Modern Art Association Exhibition (participates consecutively up to 1959)


Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition (Ashiya)


Performance "Work by Automatism" at the first Gutai Art on Stage exhibition (Osaka, Sankei Kaikan; Tokyo, Sankei Hall)


Performance "Painting in the air" at the second Gutai Art on Stage Exhibition (Osaka, Asahi Kaikan)

"International Art of a New Era: Informel and Gutai" (touring exhibition s tarting from Osaka, Takashimaya department store)

Becomes member of Ashiya Art Association

"The Gutai Group Exhibition" (New York, Martha Jackson Gallery)


Covered by the BBC

"The Seventh Gutai Art Exhibition" (Turin, Galleria Arti Figurative)

Moves house to Itami City and becomes judge of Itami exhititions.


Fourth "Asahi New Talents" exhibition (Osaka, Takashimaya)


"Continuite` et avant-garde au Japon" exhibition, organised by Tapie' (Turin, Center of Aesthetic Research


"Don't Worry, the Moon Won't Fall Down: Gutai Art and Morita Modern Dance" (Osaka, Sankei Hall)


"Groupe Gutai-Gutai Art Exhibition in Paris" (Paris, Galerie Stadler)

"'65 Japan; Today's Exhibition" (Tokyo, Muramatsu Gallery)


"NUL66. Mul Negentienhonderd Zesenzestig" (Den Haag, Galerij Olez)


"Gutai in The Netherlands: small works" (Rotterdam, Design House)

"Gutai Art Exhibition in Austria" (Klagenfurt, Hildebrandt Gallery)

"The 18th Gutai Art Exhibition" (Osaka, Gutai Pinacotheca)

"The 19th Gutai Art Exhibition"(Tokyo, Central Museum; Osaka, Gutai Pinacotheca)


"Japan Expo '70-Garden on Garden" Gutai Group show (Osaka, Expo Museum)


The first "Festival of Hyogo Prefecture Art" (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)


"The Circle Surrounding Jiro Yoshihara" exhibition (Osaka, Fujimi Gallery)


The fourth "Festival of Hyogo Prefecture Art" (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)


Joins Artist Union (then called AU group= Art Unidentified) and participates consecutively to all the exhibitions


"Japan Now" exhibition (San Francisco, Kaplikon Gallery, Embassy Gallery)

"Eighteen Years of Gutai Art" (Osaka, Prefectural Gallery)

The 12th "Today's Notion of Space" exhibition (Yokohama, Municipal Gallery of Art)

1977 International Peace Exhibition in Moscow

"Green Activities" exhibition (Stuttgart, Germany)

"Sign Symbol" exhibition (New Zealand, Wellington)


"Jiro Yoshihara and Today's Aspects of Gutai" (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)

"World Symposium Invitaton Show" (Alberta, Canada)


Solo Exhibition (Nishinomiya, Shozo Shimamoto Artspace)


Solo Exhibition at Tokyo Museum of Art


The first "Japan Week" (Dusseldorf, Atelier Hildebrand)

"6 Artists of Gutai-AU" exhibition (Itami, Municipal Art Gallery)


"Modern Art in Hyogo Prefecure" exhibition (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)

"Vancouver Modern Art" exhibition (Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery)


"The First Ten 1975-1985" exhibition (Canada, Off Center)

"Modern Art in Hyogo Prefecure - Music" exhibition (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)

"Jiro Yoshihara and Gutai:1954-1972" exhibition (Ashiya, Ashiya Civic Center)

"Action and Emotion, Paintings of the '50s, Informel, Gutai Cobra" exhibition (Osaka, National Museum of Art)


Solo Exhibition (Itami, Itami Municipal Art Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Osaka, North Fort)


Solo Exhibition (New York , Japanese-American Artist Cultural Center)

Solo Exhibition (Ashiya, Grace Human Life)

"Gutai Artists" exhibition (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)

Solo Exhibition (Amagasaki, Seibu Department Tsukashin Store)


"Yamamura Collection" exhibiton (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)

Solo Exhibition (Itami, Itami Municipal Art Gallery)


"Gutai" exhibition (Shibuya, The Shoto Museum of Art)

Solo Exhibition (Ikeda, Buranju Gallery)

"Japanese Avant-garde - Gutai Group the '50s" exhibition (Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna)


"Gutai Japanische Avantgarde 1954-1965" exhibition (Darmstadt, Institut Mathildehohe)

"Gutai - Adventurers of Paintings" exhibition (Fukuoka, Fukuoka Art Museum)

"Currents of the 20th Century Art" exhibition (Miyazaki, Kyuden Community Plaza)


"Artists of Gutai Art Association" exhibition (Miyagi, The Miyagi Museum of Art)

Gutai Exhibition (Milan, Milan Art Center)

"Gutai I: 1954-1958" exhibition (Ashiya, Ashiya City Museum of Art and History)

"Itami Modern Art" exhibition (Itami, Central Community Center)

"Outdoor Exhibition 1955, 1956" (Ashiya, Ashiya City Museum of Art and History)

Solo Exhibition (Ashiya, Gallery Second House TWO)

Performance (China, Foshan City Cultural Department)

"The World of Modern Art" exhibition (Shimane Art Museum)

Solo Exhibition (Itami Lustre Hall)


"Gutai II: 1959-1965" exhibition (Ashiya, Ashiya City Museum of Art and History)

The 45th La Biennale di Venezia, "Passaggio a Oriente" (Venice)

"Gutai III: 1965-1972" exhibition (Ashiya, Ashiya City Museum of Art and History)

"Gutai 1955-1956: A Restarting Point in Japanese Contemporary Art" exhibition (Tokyo, Penrose Institute)


"Gutai 1955-1956: A Restarting Point in Japanese Contemporary Art" exhibition (Osaka, Kirin Plaza Osaka)

Solo Exhibition (Osaka, Lads Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Tokyo, Mitaka City, Gallery Yume)


Solo Exhibition (Osaka, ABC Gallery)

1996 "Section of Post-War Art" exhibition (Chiba, Chiba City Museum of Art)

1997 Solo Exhibition "New Works by Yasuo Sumi" (Osaka, Lads Gallery)

4-man Exhibition, (Finland, Rauma Art Museum)


"Works from the Fifities by Yasuo Sumi" solo exhibition, (Osaka, Shimanouchi Gallery)

1999 Gutai Exhibition (Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume)

"Works by Yasuo Sumi" (Osaka, Kuruse Gallery)


Exhibition "Gutai and Informel" (Osaka, Art-U Gallery)

Publishes the book "Yakekuso, fumajime, charanporan" Bungeisha Editions

2001 Solo Exhibition (Osaka, Lads Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Itami City Museum of Art)


"Collection Masterpieces II" exhibition (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art)

Solo Exhibition (Osaka, Lads Gallery)

Exhibition (Sendai, Sendai Mediatheque)


"Traces: Body and Idea in Contemporary Art" exhibition (Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art)


"Traces: Body and Idea in Contemporary Art" exhibition (Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art)

Exhibition and performance (Trevi Flash Art Museum)

Performance (Reggio Emilia, Pari&Dispari Agency)

Performance (Venice, Liceo Artistico)

"AU" exhibition (Kobe, Haradanomori Gallery)

"AU and Gutai" exhibition (Modena, Spazio Fisico Gallery)


"New Spring Small Works" exhibition (Tokyo, Mitaka City, Gallery Yume)

"Collection 4" exhibition (Osaka, The National Museum of Art)

Exhibition and performance (Napoli, Fondazione Morra)

"Itami Art Association" exhibition (Itami, Central Community Center)

Tokyo International Art Fair (Tokyo Big Sight )

Group exhibition (Beijing, Exhibition Center)

"AU" exhibition (Kobe, Haradanomori Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)


La Biennale di Venezia "P3" Side event

Solo Exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)


Solo Exhibition (Osaka, Shimanouchi Gallery)

Performance (Napoli, Punta Campanella)

Exhibition (Capri, Blue Lizard Gallery)

Exhibition and performance (Capri- Saint Giacomo's Charterhouse)

Exhibition and performance (Miyazaki, Gendaikko Museum)

Performance (Kyushu, Aoshima; Sakurajima and Miyazaki Kanko Hotel)

Performance and "Shimamoto-Sumi" exhibition (Bologna, Museo Magi900)

Padova Arte 2008 (Padua, Art Fair)


Solo Exhibition (Osaka, Lads Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)


Solo Exhibition (Osaka, Shimanouchi Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)

"Gutai: Painting with Time and Space" exhibition (Lugano, Museo Cantonale d'Arte)


Solo Exhibition (Itami, Yoshida Gallery)

"Yasuo Sumi, Early Gutai Period" solo exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)

"Gutai, Between Past and Present" exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)


"Un Art Autre?" exhibition (Paris, Christie's Paris)

"GUTAI: The Spirit of an Era" exhibition (Tokyo, The National Art Center)

"GUTAI at 32 East 69th Street" exhibition (New York, Hauser and Wirth)


"Gutai: Splendid Playground" exhibition (New York, Guggenheim Museum)

"Gutai's Color" two man exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Tokyo, Whitestone Gallery)


"Art in the World" exhibition (Okayama, Tenmaya Store)

Solo Exhibition and performance (Karuizawa, Karuizawa New Art Museum)

"GUTAI- Scream of matter - Shozo Shimamoto, Yasuo Sumi" (Berlin, WeGallery)

"Yasuo Sumi - Special Works" exhibition (Venice, Spazio Arte dei Mori Gallery)


"Enchanting Mess: Yasuo Sumi in the 1950s" solo exhibition (Itami City Museum of Art)

"Yasuo Sumi - Full Immersion" solo exhibition (Ferrara, Mazzacurati Fine Art)


"NOTHING BUT THE FUTURE" , Solo Exhibition (Genoa - Italy , ABC-ARTE Gallery)

Solo Exhibition (Hong Kong, Whitestone Gallery)




Yasuo Sumi. Nothing but the future

Flaminio Gualdoni

On December 8th, 1957 Ray Falk publishes the article Japanese Innovators on the "New York Times". Among other things, he describes Yasuo Sumi's Painting in Space, which is at the centre of the very recent "Gutai art on stage": "Sumi then moves into the cellophane box and with two ladles frantically throws colored water against the cellophane wall that separates him from the audience. The colors race down the transparent curtain, mixing into new tones".

Allan Kaprow told how deeply he was moved by that article. We can understand how it did influence the concept of 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at the Reuben Gallery in 1959, through the intense use of translucent surfaces as pictorial supports.

On September 25th, 1958 the artistic group Gutai, joined by Sumi in 1955, presents the "6th Gutai Art Exhibition" at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York City. It is organised by Michel Tapié and Jirō Yoshihara. The event replays the Japanese section of The International art of a new era (Informel and Gutai) exhibition held in April at the Takashimaya Department Store. The next spring it was shown in Europe, at the art gallery Notizie in Turin.

Gutai is actually recognized by the international avantgarde in 1958-1959. The group's activity is monitored and promoted in a stable way thanks to the trips to Japan by Georges Mathieu and Tapié in 1957. At a first sight, it is clear that Klein's stay in Japan between 1952 and 1954 as judoka had no influence on the group's and artist's history.

Sumi's creative way and his first works may suggest the environment he has to deal with at the beginning. The exchange between Japan and the Western movements at the time should be now analyzed independently from any chronological basis.

Sumi has no academic education. He has no experience when, incited by Shozo Shimamoto, he begins performing in 1954. Gutai is at its early stages, but it has a clear vision of its own intellectual references. These are the new dada-surrealist wave, refreshed by John Cage through his experience at the Black Mountain College in 1952, the action painting and its prematurely idolized Jackson Pollock, and especially the Vehémences confrontées and Art autre theorised by Tapié through his book and exhibition in Paris. Japanese artists stay quite frequently in Paris, where they have the chance to visit events such as the Salon de Mai, which in 1952 included Yoshihara, future father of Gutai.

These international references are truly important for these artists, since Japan was a kind of cultural colony of the United States and, during that period, lived a very dramatic identity crisis.

In addition to the international challenges, the artist is influenced also by the evolution of calligraphy in the Thirties and Forties. Japanese calligraphy is substained by aesthetic reasons connected to the tensions derived by focusing on consciousless pictorial automatisms. The mediation by Saburō Hasegawa, author appreciated by Franz Klein, Mark Tobey and Yoshihara, is of fundamental importance.

Sumi begins searching for himself through his relationship with paper, a physical practice of calligraphy on filigree. In 1951, also the artist Yayoi Kusama debutes at the Takemiya gallery in Tokyo with works focused on graphic interactions between signs on paper.

He has no technical knowledge to worry about ("The refusal of all those rules is nothing but the future", he wrote). Since the beginning, he faces an environment open to technical or stylistic experimentations.

Shimamoto guides him towards the conceptual fire on the border between Shodo, the traditional "way of writing", his precious condition as Mushin, "no-minded", where there are no thoughts, emotions or intentions, and helps him to "find a point of indifference in my looking", the first step to Marcel Duchamp's "indeterminacy", "a favourite of the interwar Japanese avant-garde".

This is a complex and subtle 'mise en abyme' of the artistic action. The de-identification and nullification of the action's intention, and its own unaware tendency, puts a question regarding purity and perfect insignificance. The intention is deprived by any conscious or driven connection to the artist and subjectivity. It is an ancient and modern topic at the same time. Ancient because Western sacred traditional art used to consider the image of Christ as "acheiropoieta", not painted by human hand. This kind of image excluded any artistic or human mediation, so the basics of this concept were inevitably artificial and, therefore, false.

It's also a very modern concept because the XXth century's avantgardes fought against the ostentation of manual skills and talent as an esoteric and exclusive form of knowledge.

We could mention the cadavres exquis, the surrealist automatisms, the art brut by Dubuffet, where "nous assistons à l'opération artistique toute pure, brute, réinventée dans l'entier de toutes ses phases par son auteur, à partir seulement de ses propres impulsions", but also Pollock's action-painting, Fontana's "holes" since 1949 up to the 1957 "Against Style" manifesto, signed by authors and critics including Baj, Arman, Klein, Manzoni, Koenig, Restany.

The insertion of an unusual object between the artist's hand and the image's location, the use of an operational ready-made instead of a canonical technical tool excludes the idea of painting itself. This is what Sumi does. He spreads ink and colours down using an abacus, or a bangasa, the typical Japanese umbrella, or geta, the typical wooden sandals, or even a large comb or vibrating device.

Sumi turns the concept of "acheiropoieta", typical of Western metaphysics, completely upside down. The intervention of a tool autre implicates alienation from any executive intent. It is a precise an-artistic declaration.


As Shimamoto used to scratch monochrome papers until surfaces broke through irregular signs, Sumi becomes estranged to his body and energetic stream. He inserts disfunctional means between himself and his work, bringing new possibilities for the image thanks to chance, indeterminacy, accidents and casual physical movements. The crucial phases of creating the work of art are assigned to the substances involved, like tulle and metal nets.

Mathieu is an important reference, especially for his interest in "retrouver le néant des limites de la liberté à partir de laquelle tout redevient possible. Ensuite, les notions de préméditation et de référence à un modèle, à une forme déjà utilisée se trouvent définitivement bannis": but he paints. Pollock is a master, but his way of thinking, as for Fontana, includes an estranged but still existing connection between action and image.


Sumi considers the support as a field where his body's blind energies become pure visuals. It is a restless and vital energy, its quantity counts more than its quality.


An essential element is the spectacular side of the performance. Painting is the consequence of the artist's body's full engagement with the event. The audience's experience cannot be separated from the space and time activated by the pictorial action. Another front of the avantgarde tradition is involved now: the author becomes the centre of the artistic experience himself. Communication of sense is not only given by the artist through his work, but also by the work through his author.


Since the Zurich nights at the Cabaret Voltaire and the Ciné Sketch by Picabia and René Clair, the theatricalisation of the artist becomes a basic element of the work. All Gutai artists emphasise their performative side since their first exhibition in 1955. In 1957 and 1958 they realised the show "Gutai art on stage": Saburō Murakami's action, At one moment opening six holes (First Gutai exhibition) was a kind of symbol for the group.

Probably, the previous experience by Pollock and Mathieu has been quite relevant. They were both aware of this aspect. Hans Namuth's Pollock painting (1951),together with the films by Robert Descharnes (collaborator of Salavador Dalì), Mathieu's La bataille de Bouvines (1954) and the following Les Capétiens partout and Le Couronnement de Charlemagne (1956), reveal the de-idealisation of painting's wisdom and, at the same time, the re-idealisation of painting's action.


Harold Rosenberg wrote in a fundamental essay: "a painting that is an act is inseparable from the biography of the artist", perché "the act-painting is of the same metaphysical substance as the artist's existence."


Regarding the other Gutai artists, the weight given to the spectacular side is evident since their first films. When performances gradually present more codified and emphatic elements, the event's reception becomes quite predictable.


This does not happen with Sumi. Since his memorable Painting in Space (1957) to the events realised during his last years, he does not make theatrical actions, he just involves the audience like an accomplice. He shows the energy of his existence and creates the chance to feel alive, while this energy is immediately revealed in a free and unchained way.


What he cares for is a kind of essential way of thinking of chaos. All substances, including any optional way through which you can approach them, represent a limitless field of action. Time and space of existence belong to the creative action. The work of art is never completed because is a perpetual unfinishing. Beauty is neither planned or organised, it happens. It is one of the possible ways to live and ferociously feel yourself. When looking for not improper Western correspondences to this way of thinking, it is not "What you see is what you see" by Stella, but Manzoni's "There is nothing to say, one must simply be, one must simply live."

Sumi wrote: "While drawing, my mind is completely free and is only full of joy. The colour splashes here and there in a condition that is commonly considered no-beauty or disorder, but, on the contrary, for me is the direct product of natural strength. My works, bearing the marks of the abacus, the cuts of the Japanese sandals, the damages caused by the strokes of the umbrella on paper or canvas, prove my natural strength."




Yasuo Sumi Sumi | Nothing but the Future, as any other ABC-ARTE event, comes from our firm belief in the needing of collective participation. This exhibition represents a homage we cannot share with the esteemed Master Yasuo Sumi, who passed away on October the 12th 2015, when the show was still in progress. Through this catalogue, we hope you are going to feel our respect and strong admiration for this Master.


After coordinating the 2008 event dedicated to Shozo Shimamoto, including his performance at Palazzo Ducale in Genoa and the exhibition at the Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Arts, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, ABC-ARTE will present in Genoa the anthological exhibition of master Yasuo Sumi, curated by Flaminio Gualdoni,. 


The retrospective of this Japanese artist will show, through a chronological selection, the artistic career of the Gutai master, from his first works to his most recent performances. The exhibition includes very rare works, coming from international and prestigious Museums and private collections, divided by decades of realisation. Each section will follow an educational diachronic itinerary, comparing the major historical – artistic events and the most relevant postwar personalities (Fontana, Cage, Pollock, Kaprow, Mathieu), to create a complete and suitable profile of the artist.

The selected works have been made on typical supports used by Master Sumi: canvas, net with paper included, cardboard, his first Gutai works on paper, scroll and textures. 

The catalogue will include a section with historical photos, showing performances and everyday life of Master Sumi, to illustrate his artistic concepts in the most complete way, plus a collection of texts from his autobiography. 


I strongly believe this event is an important occasion to study a central author in the history of art in the XXth century. It will highlight a special period for history, politics, culture and art, when revolutionary artistic concepts reached Europe, United States and Japan through parallel ways. 

Nothing but the future represents again another opportunity for ABC-ARTE to attract and engage the attention of great audiences, starting from our city and fellow citizens as well as art lovers and young people.


I would like to give a special thanks to Associazione Culturale Spazio Arte dei Mori (Venice) and the Yasuo Sumi archive by Andrea Mardegan (Ibaraki, Japan) for their collaboration to the organisation of this exhibition, and also to all institutions mentioned in our catalogue, for their full support towards our event. 


Antoino Borghese

head consultant & director, ABC-ARTE