Monday, July 14, 2008

Heavy Light

Heavy Light: Recent Photography &Video From Japan

The International Center of Photography Museum (ICP) in New York is a place to stop by if you are in Manhattan. A month ago, I visited their current exhibition, Heavy Light, a joyful visual challenge that I always welcome.

The unconventional quality that has always amazed me when facing Japanese painting and cinema, once again struck my aesthetic taste when I saw these contemporary photographs. Heavy Light exhibition presents photographic artworks of thirteen photographers who are among the new generation of Japanese photographers. The exhibition is curated by Christopher Phillips and the Kyoto University of art and design professor, Noriko Fuku.

I started with the first gallery where Asako Narahashi’s works were displayed: his photographs called, Half Awake, Half Sleep in the Water, (2000-03), is a series of photos with unstable POV that gives a suspended view of the shore from the water. Walking through Narahashi series, little by little his strange point of view becomes the most natural viewpoint; to think of it, his suspended camera is in the most familiar place for a photographer native to an Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Blast by Naoya Hatakeyama is another photo series that really suits the idea of Heavy Light. A chain of snapshots of an explosion throwing a mixture of dust, stone and cement into the air, presents the eyes with the essence of the notions of heavy and light; heavy when it is glued to earth and light when it can detach itself form the gravity. The explosion (a mine explosion or an explosion for a construction) catalyzes the process of Heavy-Light-ing.

Yukio Nakagawa, one of the oldest photographers in this exhibition, is a norm-breaking Ikebana artist (the Japanese art of flower arrangement). Nakagawa’s flower photographs can be considered as haiku photography, if such a school exists in photography.

Among other photographers of this exhibition, I believe Midori Komatsubara’s photographs Sanctuary, leaves the door open for further studies. Sanctuary is a series of photos recreating 10 characters form a popular Japanese comic book called “Yaol”. Although the comic book characters are all boys, Komatsubara’s photographs are all played by girls. Komatsubara’s attempt to narrate a story, I believe has failed in contact with non-Japanese viewer.

To me the most enjoyable works, as well as the most realistic photographs of the exhibition were Hiroh Kikai’s portraits of people from northeast Tokyo. His lifelong project, from 1973 to present, in capturing daily faces of people, is so realistic that makes it impossible for the viewer to forget them; his portraits are more than people’s frontage; they are open gateways, so the viewer can pass the faces and get to know who they really are.

Heavy Light is on view until September 7th 2008. There is an $8 fee for students and the general admission is $12. The ICP Museum is closed on Mondays.

Yukio Nakagawa, Eyelashes, 1976,
Courtesy of Yukio Nakagawa Office and the Miyagi Museum of Art

Hiroh Kikai, 2002, Courtesy of the artist,
A man who tells me that he has always wanted to attract attention,
ever since he was a kid, and has always been knocked around for it

Asako Narahashi,
Half Awake and Half Asleep in the Water (Makuhari)
2001, Courtesy of the artist


Anonymous said...

Excellent report! Makes me jealous of you for being able to visit NYC.

Tameshk said...

Dear Anonymous
I am glad that you enjoyed this report. Soon I will be far from New York so don't envy me ;D