Tetsumi Kudo (1935-1990) is currently being rediscovered, yet for many people he will be a new acquaintance when Cultivation opens at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
. In the exhibitions laboratory of peculiar cultivation environments we can study Kudos radiantly coloured and grotesque proposals for the cultivation of life in the situation he calls the new ecology. Kudos works meet the present with a remarkable relevance and tap into todays environmental, cultural and political agendas as early formulations of what we today call the anthropocene.
Louisianas collection includes two striking work assemblages by Kudo, and they form the starting point for the exhibition, which focuses on the artists production in the 1960s-70s and his visualizations of our new ecology a self-created swamp of polluted nature, technology and decomposed humanity and humanism.
The apocalyptic post-war experience of the effects of the atom bomb on humans and the environment is a clear point of departure for Kudo. Without sentimentality, he presents mankinds technology-fixated self-destruction and environmental decay. But it is not without absurdity and humour that he thematises how new life can develop.
Kudo combines found materials and modelled elements in his distinctive sculptures. Quite conspicuously, the artist anticipates many of the aesthetic trends found in contemporary art right now, just as he anticipates the present-day penchant for the surreal and grotesque.
The exhibition presents approximately 40 works as a concentrated selection of Kudos various cultivation environments in which we typically encounter bizarre symbioses of body parts, plants and electronic components. In Kudos words, the works are visual maquettes or models of our new ecological situation.
In buckets, domes and small experimental gardens we see growth environments with plants and isolated limbs; penises, hearts, eyes, flowers, snails and electronic devices germinate and are fused together in small ecosystems.
The exhibition also gathers a number of Kudos characteristic cages. Here too we find fragments of nature, electronics and human bodies or sloughed-off, dried-up and abandoned skins of body fragments. The cages are pet cages as we know them from private homes or pet shops.
In his small but at the same time large world-pictures Kudo wallows in plastic and synthetic materials and not least visualizes the new ecology by means of non-natural materials and fluorescent colours. In the directly irradiated section of the exhibition where the colours glow under ultra-violet light, we find overgrown flowers as well as small, terrarium-like hothouses with carefully conceived, science-fiction-like cultivation experiments with eyes, brains, noses and penises in radioactive environments.
Kudo develops a number of major motifs that we find in various constellations in the works in the exhibition. The penis is Kudos highly original leitmotif and a multi-faceted symbol in cocoon-like form a symbol of the transformation potential and the metamorphosis we are constantly undergoing. In other forms, Kudo stages a comical and grotesque deconstruction of phallic dignity and dominance, and in general the penis motif stands as Kudos symbol of mankinds punctured vitality, potency and control in the new environmental processes we might have started, but no longer quite master.
Tetsumi Kudo was a formative figure on the dynamic Japanese avant-garde scene and in the anti-art currents in Tokyo at the end of the 1950s, until in 1962 he settled in Paris where he had his base for more than 20 years. Kudos interest in the natural metamorphoses and transformations, of which we are always in the midst, is not only about relations between nature and mankind; it also has a critical, political angle to do with the power and value hierarchies of humanity and culture.