(b. 1925, Japan; d. 2015, Japan)
Yasuo Sumi was born in Osaka in 1925 and went on to study economics at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, graduating in 1950. Prior to turning to art, Sumi worked as a middle-school teacher, where he met and worked alongside Shozo Shimamoto, who was to become his influencer and associate, during the active years of the Japanese post-war avant-garde group, Gutai Art Association. It was Shimamoto who encouraged Sumi to pursue painting, after which Sumi began to self-study in his free time, and ultimately joined Gutai Art Association in 1955.
The Gutai Art Manifesto published by founder Jiro Yoshihara proposed for artworks to perform as a “handshake between materials and spirit.” It sought for a relationship between mind and body in pursuit of originality. For Sumi, this pursuit resulted in a practice that embodied the use of unconventional objects in replacement of the paintbrush, including combs, umbrellas, vibrators and the abacus. His reckless spirit became his own personal philosophy and could be seen in his paintings. As an active member of Gutai, Sumi participated in all 21 of the group’s exhibitions. Following Gutai’s disbandment in 1972, Sumi relocated from Osaka to nearby Itami and continued painting. His works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions globally at various major institutions including New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Museo Cantonale d’Arte in Lugano, Tokyo’s National Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Spazio Arte dei Mori in Venice, among others. In 1993, Sumi participated in the exhibition “Passage to the East” as part of the collateral exhibition of 45th Venice Biennale. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 90.