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Tetsumi Kudo: Garden of Metamorphosis

Emmanuel Mauleon Gallery Visit Response

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Walker Art Center's retrospective exhibition of Tetsumi Kudo, a Japanese artist, titled "Garden of Metamorphosis"
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The exhibition was interesting as it was laid out so that the first work you would see would be that of early in his career, and as you moved through the gallery the work was also set out in chronological order. This allowed the viewer a true insight into the developing themes in the art as well as any major break throughs or different artistic paths the artist made. The gallery was filled with between 40-50 works, including sculptures, prints, paintings and installations. These used a wide variety of mediums, from the more traditional paint, metal and plaster, to the use of everyday objects such as plastic bags and duct tape.

A recurring theme present through most of the show was the image of the phallus/cocoon. These appeared in several different forms, from the first installation of hanging phalluses to very phallic mushrooms exhibited in many of his scultpures. Another recurring theme was his depicition of nature in a very psychadelic way, incorpotating a very fluorescent color palette, even creating a giant die which had a black light room inside. The artist statement explained that the image of the phallus as a singl object removed from the body renders it useless, and therefore became a symbol for impotence or defeat. However, the phallus also played the dual role of the cocoon, which held new life inside of it and created a sense of hope. I believe that these feelings may have been stirred up in the artist's consciousness by the fallout left in Japan after the bombings in WWII. This left many feeling powerless and helpless, but at the same time their was the hope that inside of this empty shell a more beautiful Japan could grow.

Kudo's work was altogether very different from any of the work we've seen in class, but I was most able to relate it to artists Liz Miller or Chris Larson. Liz Miller in the sense that the color palette was very similar, and Chris Larson in the complexity of some of the sculptures.

My favorite work of the exhibition was titled, "Homage To The Young Generation - The Cocoon Opens, 1968." It was created using a baby carriage, shoe, paperbag, cotton, plastic, polyester, paint and a strobe light. The sculpture was what appeared to be a tapeworm-like figure pushing a baby stroller which held a peanut-shaped cocoon, which was split open. Inside of this cocoon were several diodes and a pink surface, which was printed with what seemed to be assembly instructions to a motherboard. The figure pushing the carriage had one shoe on, an umbrella, and a bag from an upscale shop in France. Furthermore, exiting the cocoon were nine jellied yellow brains connected with tubes. One of the tubes comes outside of the cocoon and reaches to a large brain on the ground. The placard indicated that the brain was originally mechanical and moved on it's own. Inside of the cocoon the strobe light would flash in pulses, which reminded me of a heartbeat. The piece follows the gallery theme along the ideas of metamorphosis and the evolution of society. The tape worm with it's nice things represents the tradtional values and older generation, and the brain babies emerging from the cocoon are inundated with new technologies and hi-tech devices before they even hatched.

I would highly recommend this exhibit to anyone. It was one of the few exhibits I have been to where I was actively having fun by being immersed in the garden of metamorphisis. I enjoyed taking a part in Kudo's constructed world, and at the same time was able to grasp his artistic vision and intent. GO SEE IT NOW!