Japan Today, an exhibition currently on view at Amador Gallery, is profoundly elegiac. It features images by three photographers who have taken divergent views of the country that existed for them before the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.
Left to right: Taiji Matsui, JP-22 #16, 2005; Osama Kanemura, from Today’s Japan, 2005; Mikiko Hara, Untitled (Is As It), 1996. Courtesy Amador Gallery.
Seen on entering the gallery are a group of serenely beautiful aerial photographs by Taiji Matsui from his JP-22 series. From above, and close enough to earth to capture structures and human interaction, these images present both an abstraction, and a picture, of what goes on below. In a view of an aquaculture installation, the still water in which a dozens of wooden cages are neatly lined up in rows is broken by a comet-like burst where a speedboat has entered the scene. The idea of farmland in a country where every square inch of terrain is put to use is captured in a scene where all the stages in agriculture, from plowed up black earth to mature rice fields to dense patches of green turf, are evident. In the rural views here, a fictional sense of stillness becomes an essential element.
Simultaneously diaristic and novelistic, Mikiko Hara’s pictures of urban life capture an ominous undercurrent that informs the demeanor of her subjects. Inside the square 120 format, her subjects are seemingly caught off guard during moments where their inner thoughts become an emotional landscape for all to witness. A teenage girl, seated with her parents in the metro, projects a feeling of angst as if she were acting onstage. Two girls at the beach are caught in what could be a revelatory moment of confession. A young woman wearing something that looks like a medical apparatus on her face waits, alone, in a train station. She seems so deeply engaged in an interior monologue that her surroundings become irrelevant. In every case, Hara seems to trap her subjects within the formal device of the picture frame in a way that suggests a sense of psychic entrapment.
Osama Kanemura makes the chaotic complexity of Tokyo’s ever-changing environment his studio. Packed with information and layered with patterns of overlapping structures, billboards, and electrical wiring, the city itself becomes an information network where pedestrians seem irrelevant to the system. In a group of seven images from 1995, installed frame to frame and spanning the width of the front gallery, the claustrophobic jumble of the built environment is fragmented to the point of near collapse.
Japan Today: Photographs by Taiji Matsue, Osamu Kanemura and Mikiko Hara continues through June 30th at Amador Gallery, The Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, 6th Floor, NY, NY.
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