On display at Tate Modern
- Display Room: A View from Tokyo: Between Man and Matter (Room 5)
- Display Theme: Level 4: Materials and Objects
- Jiro Takamatsu 1936–1998
- Object: 270 x 400 x 400 mm
- Purchased with funds provided by Tate International Council 2011
Oneness of Concrete 1970 consists of a concrete enclosure in the shape of a simple box, about half a metre square when seen from above, and slightly shallower in height. This ‘box’ is filled with fragments of concrete, the roughness and irregularity of which contrast with the smoothness of the sculpture’s exterior.
This work belongs to Takamatsu’s Oneness series made between 1969 and 1972. With this body of work, the artist explored the complexity and resonances of individual materials. For each Oneness piece he used a familiar, everyday substance, such as concrete or wood (see Oneness of Cedar 1970, Tate T13498). The series includes two other versions of Oneness of Concrete, of which one is in the collection of the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota City, Japan and the other is currently held by the artist’s estate. All three are unique sculptures and of different sizes. In addition, the series includes works made in numerous other materials such as wood, iron, brick, granite and paper. Each work in the series was formed using a similar methodology. Takamatsu chose a single material and manipulated it, demonstrating its intrinsic transformative potential as well as its singularity. For Takamatsu, this artistic gesture has a metaphorical and philosophical implication, suggesting the uniqueness and mutability of self-identity.
In focusing the audience’s attention on different aspects or qualities of a given material, these works hint at the complexity of the most simple, everyday objects. Takamatsu’s contribution to the seminal Tokyo Biennale exhibition of 1970 Between Man and Matter included a range of works from the Oneness series. He also contributed a text to the exhibition catalogue in which he wrote:
It seems that there is always great uncertainty in our being concerned only with particular (partial) elements of a matter. I think therefore it is necessary to have more total relation to a matter within the range of our own capacity. Sometimes such relation arises merely from our being aware of a matter and hardly with any effort, but for most occasions some action is required. To me this action is artistic creation.
(Jiro Takamatsu, ‘Comment’, in Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum 1970, unpaginated.)
The geometric shape of Oneness of Concrete suggests a dialogue with contemporaneous Western minimalist sculpture by artists including Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. This connection is, however, undercut by the particularity of Takamatsu’s approach to his materials in which the natural qualities of each material are pre-eminent. The irregularity of the concrete rubble in the sculpture’s interior alludes to the detritus of building works, which would have been familiar to anyone living in Tokyo during this period of urban development.
Takamatsu began his career in 1963 as one of the founding members (with Genpei Akasegawa and Natsuyuki Nakanishi) of the performance collective Hi Red Center, which staged provocative dada-inspired actions on the streets of Tokyo that were intended to break down the distinctions between life and art. Subsequently he worked across a wide range of media, creating distinctive bodies of work in painting, drawing, sculpture, installation and photography. His work was grounded in an investigation of the material and philosophical potential of art, and he outlined his theoretical perspectives in a series of essays that were published throughout his lifetime and subsequently posthumously compiled in book form in 2003 as The Expanding World Project and Quest for Absence.
Yusuke Nakahara and Toshiaki Minemura (eds.), Between Man and Matter: 10th Tokyo Biennale ’70, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo 1970.
Jiro Takamatsu, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo 1972.
Naoyuki Takashima, Makiko Matake, Ryoko Kamiyama and Yoshiko Asami, Takamatsu Jiro: Universe of His Thought, exhibition catalogue, Fuchu Art Museum, Tokyo 2004.