Minoru Onoda

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Hovering in a fantastically cavernous room in Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie’s freshly launched virtual showroom as part of “Minoru Onoda: Through Another Lens,” WORK75-Blue1232, 1975, offers a diptych of concentric circles in soft shades of blue by the second-generation Gutai artist. Currently the subject of a major retrospective at the Himeji City Museum of Art in Japan, Onoda has been increasingly thrust into the limelight in the wake of recent reappraisals of the Gutai group led by scholars and curators such as Joan Kee, Ming Tiampo, Alexandra Monroe, and Shoichi Hirai. With its darker tones bleeding seamlessly into the lighter ones as the circles expand, WORK75-Blue1232 evokes cross sections of a cylindrical conductor, capturing the charge of a flowing electric current and a visceral dissipation of energy. This semblance seems no accident: In his 1961 manifesto, “Paintings of Propagation,” Onoda ruminates on the aesthetic potential of vacuum tubes, which were then mass-produced as important components of the televisions, radios and radar equipment of the time.

In the two decades after the Second World War, a wave of industrialization centered on consumer electronics swept across Japan. During that same period, and partially spurred by French critic Michel Tapié’s involvement with the Gutai group, many Japanese artists turned to action painting, with its energetic and conspicuous brushstrokes. Onoda’s use of acrylic spray paint lends WORK75-Blue1232 an even surface untainted by brushstrokes, signaling the artist’s objection to what he perceived to be an uncritical embrace of action painting. While obsessed with mechanical production in artmaking, he is careful not to remove traces of subjectivity entirely from his paintings. At first glance, the two concentric circles appear similar, but the different hues of blue in their respective centers set them apart. This subtle artistic gesture is a nod to creative autonomy and a stand against the alienating nature of the mindless toil of factory workers, then and now.

Eric Goh

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