Delve into the radical experiments of artists from 1960s Japan who made groundbreaking contributions to the development of international postwar art in defiance of existing conventions. Little known in the U.S., artist Yutaka Matsuzawa and the two collectives The Play and GUN challenged established norms to expand the definition of visual art through language, performance, mail art, land art, and political art. Radicalism in the Wilderness surveys the range of their projects, at times colorful, imaginative, and playful, but also inextricably linked to complex social, political, and cultural issues of the turbulent and innovative 1960s.

Admission: $12/$10 students and seniors

Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Welcome Desk or online in advance.

This exhibition is part of our Japan in the Global 1960s series.

Exhibition Preview

Audio Tour

Listen to the audio tour of Japan Society's spring exhibition, Radicalism in the Wilderness: Japanese Artists in the Global 1960s, on view through June 9, 2019. Hear the full audio tour here.

Exhibition-Related Programming


Radicalism in the WildernessGuest Curator Reiko Tomii’s award-winning book Radicalism in the Wilderness (2016) is available for purchase at the Welcome Desk or at for $25. A limited number of copies signed by the author and members of GUN, which include a set of GUN postcards, are available at $30 while supplies last.

Yutaka Matsuzawa

Hailing from Shimo Suwa in mountainous central Japan, Matsuzawa was one of Japan’s pioneer conceptual artists. He made a complete break from materiality in his art through his drastic proposal of “vanishing of matter,” best exemplified in his landmark exhibition Independent ’64 in the Wilderness (1964). The exhibition completely eliminated the physical presence of artworks, instead showcasing “formless emissions” by himself and other artists. Informed by his interests in contemporary science, parapsychology, and non-Zen Buddhism, Matsuzawa established his immaterial art using “kannen,” a Buddhist-derived practice of “meditative visualization” to unleash the viewer’s mental faculty to see the mind’s eye. Using the principle of vanishing of matter and the method of kannen, he formulated Non-Sensory Painting, an attempt to make the invisible visible through a theoretical construct akin to astrophysics and quantum mechanics.


Composed of artists from the northern Niigata prefecture facing the Sea of Japan, this collective was best known for their ephemeral and site-specific experience of Event to Change the Image of Snow (1970), which included the group members spraying an array of bright color pigments over the isolated, snow-covered dry riverbed of the Shinano River. GUN reprised the act four days later, and each event lasted only 30 minutes, as new snowfall quickly erased the huge color field abstraction. A GUN member, Horikawa Michio, also pioneered mail art with the Mail Art by Sending Stones series. For the series, Michio responded to the moon landing in 1969 by mailing 11 stones gathered along the Shinano River, critically echoing the Apollo mission to collect moon rocks for scientific research, as a way of turning human attention to the tumultuous Earth.

The Play

An Osaka-based collective of “Happeners”, The Play created a series of “voyages” into various landscapes—oceans, rivers, mountains. The group formulated their voyages as their annual summer project, from 1968 through 1986, beginning with the launching of a giant fiberglass egg into the Pacific Ocean off the southernmost tip of Japan’s main island. Voyage: Happening in an Egg (1968) was described as an “image of liberation from all the material and mental restrictions imposed upon us who live in contemporary times.” By collaborating with ordinary people who provided them with the necessary resources for these landscape-based projects, they prefigured the contemporary movement for community-based, socially engaged art practices.

Visitor Information

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday—Thursday, 12 PM—7 PM
Friday, 12 PM—9 PM
Saturday & Sunday, 11 AM—5 PM
Closed Mondays and on major holidays.

Note: The Gallery will have extended hours this Saturday, June 8, from 11 AM–9 PM.

$12/$10 students and seniors
Free for Japan Society members (Join today!)
Free for patrons with disabilities and an accompanying Personal Care Assistant
Free admission on Fridays from 6—9 PM
  Group Tours:
Tailored private tours are available upon request. To arrange adult tours, please call (212) 715-1283. For K-12 tours, please call (212) 715-1275 or email Two weeks advance request recommended.

Docent Tours:
Thursday—Friday at 2:30 PM, Friday at 7 PM
Japanese language tour Friday at 6 PM
Free with gallery admission.

Radicalism in the Wilderness: Japanese Artists in the Global 1960s is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support is provided by William K. Tomita and Elise M. Saab / Art Token.

Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the exclusive Japanese airline sponsor.

Visual equipment is generously donated by NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc.

Exhibitions and Arts & Culture Lecture Programs at Japan Society are made possible in part by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund, the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, an anonymous donor, and Friends of the Gallery. Support for Arts & Culture Lecture Programs is provided, in part, by the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

Friday night Escape East events are supported, in part, by Air Canada.

GUN, Events to Change the Image of Snow (detail), 1970. Documentary photograph of performance art. Photo © Hanaga Mitsutoshi.

Calendar of Events

April 2021

S M T W Th F S
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

eNews Sign-up

Stay informed about all Japan Society programs and events.
Subscribe Now

All content © 2021, Japan Society, unless otherwise noted. |
333 East 47th Street New York, NY 10017 Phone: 212.832.1155 |
Credits | Press | Contact Us | Privacy Policy