Tag Archives: Asian Photography

Review: Tokyo-e @ Le Bal

Keizo Kitajima, Photo Express Tokyo

Keizo Kitajima, Photo Express Tokyo

Le Bal‘s Japanese summer season continues this week with the opening of the exhibition Tokyo-e, which brings together work by Yutaka Takanashi and Keizo Kitajima with a series by an almost complete unknown photographer, Yukichi Watabe, a photojournalist who worked in Tokyo. The three groups of work on show are very different, related only through their strong connection to the Japanese capital. Although this selection seems a little arbitrary (as is almost inevitably the case with city-based shows), Tokyo-e is a rare opportunity to see an exhibition that goes beyond the ever-popular Moriyama, Araki or anything-from-Provoke choices. Tokyo-e only opens officially tomorrow, but here’s a little sneak preview to whet the appetite.

 

Keizo Kitajima, Koza

Keizo Kitajima, Koza

Kitajima gets the lion’s share of the exhibition space with the entire downstairs floor including work spanning 15 years of his career, from his 1970s series in Tokyo and Okinawa to his work from the 1980s taken in New York, Eastern Europe, Berlin, Seoul and Beijing. The most striking feature of the Kitajima room has to be the Photo Express Tokyo grid, a band of photographs covering an entire wall. The installation is a nod to the 1970s Camp gallery where Kitajima covered the walls, floor and ceiling of this tiny Shinjuku space with his prints. In conjunction with this show, Le Bal and Steidl are releasing a facsimile of the full set of 12 Photo Express Tokyo booklets that Kitajima made in 1979 at the rate of one issue per week throughout the 12-week run of the exhibition.

Keizo Kitajima, Colour Works

Keizo Kitajima, Colour Works

Although Kitajima’s work features most prominently, I found the upstairs room to be the more successful half of the show. The combination of Takanashi’s Machi, a series of opulent, colour-drenched shopfronts and interiors from Tokyo’s Shitamachi district, with a clever installation of Watabe’s small ‘film noir’ vignettes creates the sense of wandering through the streets of a city from the past. The Watabe criminal investigation series is a wonderful anomaly. Shot in 1958, these photographs document a criminal investigation by the Tokyo police of a horrific murder by a suspected serial killer. In a radical departure from the straightforward ‘objective’ documentation that was so prevalent at the time, Watabe’s photographs could be a set of film stills given how heavily they seem to be influenced by film noir, an effect which is compounded by the charismatic lead investigator, a kind of Japanese Humphrey Bogart figure. While they are different in every aspect, the installation of the two series ties them together nicely: the size of the Takanashi prints almost make it possible to walk into these city spaces, which have now all but faded away, while the labyrinthine installation of Watabe’s small prints, which visitors look down on from above, echoes the detective’s experience of searching for clues.

Yutaka Takanashi's Machi and Watabe Yukichi's criminal investigation series

Yutaka Takanashi's Machi and Watabe Yukichi's criminal investigation series

With an artist talk by Kitajima tomorrow (Friday 20 May) evening, one by Takanashi on Sunday (22 May), a film programme and a bunch of other events to come, Tokyo-e comes complete with some terrific bonus features and is definitely worth the visit.

Tokyo-e (Yutaka Takanashi, Keizo Kitajima & Yukichi Watabe), Le Bal
20 May – 21 August 2011

Rating: Recommended

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Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory @ AGNSW

The Butterfly Dream

The Butterfly Dream

I’ve just come back from a ridiculously short trip to Australia for the opening of Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This is Hosoe’s first solo show in Australia and his first trip there. In addition to having the master himself present, he came accompanied by Yoshito Ohno, the butoh dancer and son of Kazuo Ohno, the co-founder of butoh who passed away last year at the age of 103. Here’s a quick behind the scenes glimpse at the opening week of the show.

Eikoh Hosoe

Eikoh Hosoe

Eikoh Hosoe with his portrait of Yukio Mishima from the Barakei series

Eikoh Hosoe with his portrait of Yukio Mishima from the Barakei series

Yoshito Ohno performed at the opening of the exhibition. You can see a video of one part of the performance here. There’s also another video of Ohno’s puppet performance at Zen Foto in Tokyo last year (note the Elvis Presley tune which is crucial to the tone of this performance). After the opening Hosoe and Ohno gave a fantastic artist talk in the exhibition space where they spoke about how butoh developed and how Ohno and Hijikata collaborated with Hosoe over the years.

 

Yoshito Ohno performing with a puppet of his father at the opening

Yoshito Ohno performing with a puppet of his father at the opening

Eikoh Hosoe and Yoshito Ohno artist talk

Eikoh Hosoe and Yoshito Ohno artist talk

Second edition of Barakei, designed by Tadanori Yokoo.

Second edition of Barakei, designed by Tadanori Yokoo.

Beg, borrow or steal.

Hosoe's next project? Butoh as embodied in Australia's native trees.
Hosoe’s next project? Butoh as embodied in Australia’s native trees.

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A Japanese season starts in Paris

Opening night at Japanese Photobooks Now

Opening night at Japanese Photobooks Now

Last night was the opening of Japanese Photobooks Now, the first in a summer series of events on Japanese photography and film at Le Bal, which, as regular readers will know, should be right up my street. I’ve written about Le Bal before on eyecurious and since their first show Anonymes last autumn they have maintained a consistently interesting and diverse programme. For the next couple of weeks, the upstairs space has been taken over by Ivan Vartanian, a Tokyo-based New Yorker and the author of Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s and Setting Sun amongst others. For Japanese Photobooks Now Vartanian has put together a selection of around 80 photobooks which provide an overview of contemporary Japanese photobook publishing. Opportunities to pick up Japanese photobooks outside of Japan are pretty limited and so this is a rare chance not only to see some of the best current books but also to get a broader overview of the contemporary Japanese photo scene and the current trends in photobook publishing. The show is up until 8 May, but if you hurry Vartanian is in Paris until the end of the week and you just might be able to convince him to give you a private tour. With a Kitajima/Takanashi/Watabe exhibition, a month of Japanese film, two books and several events to come (full programme on Le Bal’s website), this promises to be a good summer.

 

Ivan Vartanian

Ivan Vartanian

 

 

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