• Issue
  • Mar 26, 2022

Exhibitions of 2020: Lessons In Survival

TETSUMI KUDO, Human Bonsai

They say flies could survive a nuclear holocaust, so perhaps it’s appropriate that plastic insects dot the sculptures of Tetsumi Kudo (1935–90), whose teeming amalgamations of mutant plants, body parts, and scrap transistors describe an irradiated wasteland. The avant-gardist imagined “a new ecology” where the anthropogenic degradation of the Earth forces humans to “decompose” and adapt. A retrospective of Kudo opened in June at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, after a fortuitous rediscovery in storage of his sculptures, including a rainbow-hued incubator containing sculpted brains, noses, and phosphorescent phalluses. In Human Bonsai – Freedom of Deformity – Deformity of Freedom (1979), zombie hands emerge from a tray of soil among sprouting penises. The artist’s irreverent brand of body horror disturbs with its suggestion not of death but of survival—enjoy your mangled existence in the nuclear winter! Don’t let the radioactive bugs bite.