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Ushio Shinohara, Revenge of the Poison Frog: work in progress

Ethan Cohen Fine Arts
18 Jay Street, between Hudson and Greenwich, 212-625-1250
Tribeca / Downtown
October 11 - November 11, 2007
Reception: Thursday, October 11, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Ushio Shinohara was born in Koji-machi Tokyo in 1932, just when Japan was about to enter an age of great change. The son of a painter and a poet, Shinohara entered Tokyo Art University to study oil painting in 1952, the year the foreign occupation ended and the peace treaty finally went into effect. This was a time when Japan was rebuilding and remaking its society. As a many of the youth were questioning the accepted cultural norms, many young artists were questioning the artistic norms. After leaving University in 1957, Shinohara organized the “Neo Dadaism Organizers” group, one of the most radical avant-garde collectives in postwar Japan. This was his reaction to the earlier avant-garde artists whose action paintings and radical departures had mellowed into more passive abstract imagary. Shinohara, sporting a Mohawk and striped to the waist, pounded on large canvases with paint-soaked boxing gloves creating what he called “Boxing Painting”.

In many of Shinohara’s paintings and sculptures the themes and materials are everyday objects, such as discarded trash, motorcycle parts, mass media-related objects and other tokens of modern society. All of this work radiates movement and emotion of ferocious intensity. In 1963, Shinohara created the series “Imitation Art,” in which he “imitated” the Western Neo-Dada and Pop Art masterpieces, such as Jasper Johns’ Three Flags and Robert Rauschenberg’s Coca-Cola Plan, as well as earlier innovators such as Van Gogh. As reviewed in New York, this “imitation Art series gives evidence to Shinohara’s highly rational, critical mind behind his seemingly idiosyncratic conduct and work.” ...”by copying foreign artworks in a startling way, Shinohara suggested that those Japanese artists who had been following in the wake of artistic movements abroad had been simply pretending to be original. What they did in fact was `adapt.’” During a 1964 Rauschenberg performance in Japan, Shinohara leaped on stage firing questions at the artist. Although Rauschenberg did not verbally respond (but pasted the written the translations on his tableau and covered them with paint), he later reportedly held Shinohara’s “Coca-Cola Plan” in his hands and excitedly shouted “My son, My son!”

Shinohara has continued to create and perform with an undiminished vigor and passion to be envied the young artists of today. Although he has lived and worked in New York since the 1960’s, Shinohara continues to be revered as one of Japan’s great avant-garde artists where his work is highly sought after. He is currently being exhibited in the Toyota Municipal Museum in Aichi, Japan. In 2006 Ethan Cohen Fine Arts hosted “Action Painting Battle!”, a competition of performance painting held in the middle of Jay Street in TriBeCa. In this painting spectacle, Shinohara’s famous “Boxing Painting” was challenged by young action painter Ryoga Katsuma. Today, when one observes the finished result of Shinohara’s efforts, the artist’s frenetic and colorful paintings, drawings and sculptures radiate with the great energy he exerts when creating. They scream color, movement, joy, wonder and power.

“Draw a line on the pure white virgin paper. Don’t stop, don’t think. Next, with a spirited howl of `Yeah, yeah, Oh!’ draw circles, draw straight lines and don’t think!” -Ushio Shinohara

As Julia Cassim observed in her 1993 Art in America review of Shinohara’s retrospective show in Tsukashin Hall – Amagasaki, Japan, “His kaleidoscopic paintings of pneumatic, rubber-nippled nudes, bikers and Coney Island’s garish glories are painted in the acid reds, greens and pinks common to Asian street fairs from Tokyo to Bombay. They burst at the seams with detail. Seemingly slapdash and rapidly painted, they are, in fact, as carefully composed as any more formal work.”

This exhibition will feature Ushio Shinohara’s recent large paintings and drawings as well as sculptures. The gallery will also become Shinohara’s studio as the artist creates a large painting on the wall during the duration of the exhibition.
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