Murayama, Tomoyoshi (1901–1977) By Lewis, Diane Wei
Tomoyoshi Murayama was a multi-disciplinary Japanese artist associated with the interwar avant-garde and leftwing theater movements. After briefly attending Tokyo Imperial University, Murayama moved to Berlin in 1922, where he met Herwarth Walden and participated in The Great Futurist Exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm. Upon returning to Japan, Murayama held his first solo exhibition in Tokyo in 1923, where he developed a theory of ‘conscious constructivism’ that called for the incorporation of everyday life into aesthetic practice. As the founding member and spokesman of the art collective Mavo, Murayama challenged prevailing notions of pure art—his mixed media assemblages included references to popular culture and industrial materials. In addition to his mixed media pieces, Murayama produced work across a range of media including children’s illustration, commercial design, theater, and film. Murayama’s theater affiliations included the Kokoro-za Theatre and the New Cooperative Theatre, and he designed the constructivist-style set for the Tsukiji Little Theatre production of From Morning Till Midnight (1924). An active member of proletarian art associations, Murayama was detained multiple times under the Peace Preservation Law, and was forced to renounce his political affiliations in 1933. In 1940, the New Cooperative Theatre and New Tsukiji Little Theatre were disbanded, and Murayama imprisoned. Following his sentence, Murayama spent the remainder of the war in Korea and Manchuria, returning to Japan after the war in 1945. His late novel Shinobi no mono (1960–1962) was adapted as a film series, play, and television program. Prior to his death, he completed a four-volume autobiography.