Ushio Shinohara

Image de Kristine Cinate

Shinohara, revisiting the practice and the tradition

    The son of a tanka poet (a traditional Japanese form of poetry), Shinohara was exposed to various art forms from an early age. His parents quickly instilled in him a love of late 19th century French painting. He naturally enrolled at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, but, disappointed by the overly academic teaching, left it to turn to other sources, such as the work of photographer Tomatsu Shomei. In 1960, together with several other Japanese artists (Yoshimura, Akasegawa, Arakawa, Kazakura, etc.), he founded the Neo Dadaïsm Organizers (NDO), the Japanese branch of the famous Dada movement, whose action focused on holding performances and happenings in public places. From that moment on, Shinohara developed several practices that would characterise his activity for the years to come: sculptures made of detritus, paintings of monumental dimensions (including The World's Largest Self-Portrait), and Boxing Paintings in which the artist leaves the marks of his fists on the canvas. Wearing an Iroquois crest, the Japanese artist began a quest to create a violent, irreverent and concrete art, far from the informal concerns of the emerging conceptual groups. He achieved notoriety with the latter, in collaboration with Fukuyama Masaharu, for the advertising clip of a sports drink. In 2007, he received the Mainichi Art Prize. In 2012, the first retrospective exhibition of his work abroad was held at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York's New Paltz.


In the United States, Shinohara began the Oiran series, continuing the Japanese tradition of geisha painting, but in which the courtesans are disfigured, attacked by hordes of cowboys, Indians and monsters, in a style close to the Edo period (1606-1848), where vitality and expressiveness take precedence over beauty, thanks to the use of plastic materials and fluorescent paint. In the 1970s, he began the Motorcycles series, in which he sculpted huge, complex and colourful motorbikes, mixing American myth with Japanese aesthetics. In recent years, Shinohara has returned to the Boxing Paintings.

"I simply loved American art. In the 1960s, at the height of the Pop Art craze, I read everything about it in art magazines. It excited me like crazy, I thought, 'I want to do that too! ". That's how I made my decision to go to New York. But when my one-year scholarship ran out, I had no money and no connections. But the art demon pulled me by the neck, so I put all my strength into it and went for it. "


The artist's mostly monumental works can be seen in the collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa, New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met, New York), the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo, Japan), the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art (Japan)

A photograph by William Klein capturing Shinohara's performance in one of his boxing paintings is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, US).