Atsuko Tanaka

  • Born 1932 in Osaka, Japan
  • Died 2005 in Nara, Japan

Tanaka Atsuko was a leading Japanese avant-garde artist. She began studying art at the Kyōtoshiritsugeijutsudaigaku (Kyoto City University of Arts) in 1950, but in 1951 she transferred to the Āto no Ōsaka ichi Kenkyūjo (Osaka Municipal Institute of Art) to focus on modern Western art. Her husband, artist Akira Kanayama (b. 1924), founded Zero-kai (Zero Society) in 1952. She first participated in Zero-kai, then joined the Gutai Art Association in 1955. After a series of paintings and collages incorporating numbers, she became interested in everyday materials, such as commercially dyed textiles, electric bells, and lightbulbs. She also created many innovative works involving the spectator, performative art, and new technology. At the first Gutai exhibition in 1955, Tanaka Atsuko showed her first electric and participatory piece, Work (Bell). Her most famous work, Electric Dress (1956), was a wearable kimono-like sculpture made of colorfully painted lightbulbs, which one critic described as “a powerful conflation of the tradition of the Japanese kimono with modern industrial technology.” The lights represented systems pulsing inside the human body. She later returned to painting in a visual vocabulary, featuring networks of concentric circles and circuitous lines on large-scale canvases. Her work is included in several important private and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Artworks by Atsuko Tanaka in the exhibition