Yutaka Takanashi – Towards the City (including a short history of the “Provoke” era), Part I

In the past years I have been involved in introducing the photographic work of Yutaka Takanashi to the West. In 2009 I wrote an essay on Yutaka Takanashi:”Takanashi’s Magnetic Storm” for the first Western monograph on the artist: “Yutaka Takanashi. Photography 1965-74″.

In 2012 the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson held the first Yutaka Takanashi museum exhibition outside Japan. On this occasion I contributed an essay “Towards the City” to the catalogue to the show.1)Essay: “Towards the City” [French/English]. in: Yutaka Takanashi, published by Éditorial RM, Mexico City and Toluca Éditions, Paris.  Published on occasion of the exhibition Yutaka Takanashi, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, May 10 – July 29, 2012  In this text I wrote about Takanashi’s series Toshi-e as well as about his subsequent series Machi (Town) and the (unpublished) series on bars in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
And since  Yutaka Takanashi was the co-founder of the legendary Provoke group I added a short history of the Provoke era.2)A detailed description of the history of the Provoke era isn’t available outside Japan yet…

Yutaka Takanashi, published by Éditorial RM, Mexico City & Toluca Éditions, Paris

Yutaka Takanashi, published by Éditorial RM, Mexico City & Toluca Éditions, Paris

[Part 2, part 3 and part 4]

 

Tokyo

The metropolis of Tokyo is the central theme of 20th century Japanese photography – from the artistic elevation of the city in pictorial images in the early days of the century to the dynamic representation of architecture and urban life based on the “new photography” (a literal translation of the Japanese “shinko shashin”) to the photographic documentation of destruction and reconstruction in the post-war period. In all of its facets, the city of Tokyo reflects the radical change that Japan underwent on its way to becoming an industrial society; it is a breeding ground for social change that also symbolises the collision of tradition and modernity.

Masao Horino: The Character of Greater Tokyo. Art Direction: Takao Itagaki, Chuokoron magazine, Chuokoron-sha October, 1931

Masao Horino: The Character of Greater Tokyo. Art Direction: Takao Itagaki, Chuokoron magazine, Chuokoron-sha October, 1931

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References   [ + ]

1. Essay: “Towards the City” [French/English]. in: Yutaka Takanashi, published by Éditorial RM, Mexico City and Toluca Éditions, Paris.  Published on occasion of the exhibition Yutaka Takanashi, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, May 10 – July 29, 2012
2. A detailed description of the history of the Provoke era isn’t available outside Japan yet…
Shomei Tomatsu: Untitled (Hateruma-jima, Okinawa), from the series "The Pencil of the Sun", 1971 © Shomei Tomatsu

Shomei Tomatsu exhibition

It is interesting to have a look at the Western reception of Japanese photography in the last three decades. After a few initial exhibitions on Japanese photography in the 1970s and early 1980s – like the first and seminal show New Japanese Photography at the MOMA 1974 – the Western audience lost interest in this exceptionally productive period of time and in Japanese photography in generally. It took almost a decade that the interest in Japanese photography revitalized, but this time the interest focussed on contemporary Japanese photographers like Nobuyoshi Araki (first solo show in the West 1992), Hiroshi Sugimoto or Toshio Shibata.
Historical Japanese only came into view again at the end 1990s with the world tour of the Daido Moriyama exhibition, produced 1999 by Sandra Phillips at the SFMOMA, and in 2004 with the exhibition “The History of Japanese Photography” by Anne Tucker at the Museum of Fine Art Houston.Ann Tucker’s catalogue will be the reference publication on Japanese photography for many years to come. This kind of meandering reception of Japanese photography led to the surprising result that “the most important figure in Japanese postwar photography” is still much less known as the photographers who developed their work with or against him. Of course this photographer – who had been labeled the “godfather” of Japanese photography by an artist I met in Tokyo recently – is Shomei Tomatsu.

Recently I had the pleasure to initiate the first solo exhibition of Shomei Tomatsu in Germany, which is currently on show at Galerie Priska Pasquer.

Shomei Tomatsu at Galerie Priska Pasquer Cologne
Exhibition: March 13 – April 17, 2010

Shomei Tomatsu: Prostitute, 1957 © Shomei Tomatsu

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Ikko Narahara Exhibition in Cologne

I was quite busy the whole summer working Galerie Priska Pasquer on the program of Japanese photography – including a trip to Tokyo. One result of my work can currently be seen at our gallery:

Ikko Narahara – Photographs from the 1950s to the 1970s

It’s the first solo exhibiton of Ikko Narahara´s work in Germany and the first time that his vintage prints from the 60s and 70s are on show in a gallery.

Ikko Narahara: Island without Green #12, Gunkanjima, Nagasaki, from the series: 'Human Land', 1954-1957  ©Ikko Narahara

Ikko Narahara, born in 1931 in the Fukuoka Prefecture was self taught photographer. The response to his first (one week) solo exhibition in Tokyo’s only photo gallery was so positive that he decided to become a photographer. Soon after he took part in the groundbreaking photography exhibition ‘The Eyes of Ten’ in Tokyo in 1957. Two years later he became one of the co-founders of the legendary photo agency VIVO (in collaboration with Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Kikuji Kawada, and others), which was to be the epicenter for a new generation of Japanese photographers.

Ikko Narahara: Garden of Silence #03, Hakodate, Hokkaido, from the series: 'Domains', 1958  ©Ikko Naraharaa

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Kikuji Kawada: The Japanese National Flag, 1960-65

John Szarkowski (1925-2007) and Japanese Photography

John Szarkowski, a curator who almost single-handedly elevated photography’s status in the last half-century to that of a fine art, making his case in seminal writings and landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, died in on Saturday in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 81.
[Quote: New York Times Obituary]

American Photography

As the New York Times points out John Szarkowski “was first to confer importance on the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand” and two of his books, “‘The Photographer’s Eye,’ (1964) and ‘Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures From the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art’ (1973), remain syllabus staples in art history programs.” Szarkowski also introduced the work by William Eggleston in the now legendary exhibition “William Egglestons Guide” (1976). This exhibition “was widely considered the worst of the year in photography.”

New Japanese Photography, MOMA, New York 1974

New Japanese Photography, MOMA, New York 1974

 

New Japanese Photography

John Szarkowski left definitely his mark in the field of American photography, but not only there. In 1974 John Szarkowski organized together with Shôji Yamagishi (editor of Camera Mainichi magazine) the exhibition “New Japanese Photography”. The exhibition introduced 15 photographers, amongst them the grand masters of Japanese photography: Ken Domon, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Shomei Tomatsu, Kikuji Kawada, Masatoshi Naitoh, Tetsuya Ichimura, Hiromi Tsuchida, Masahisa Fukase, Ikko, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama, Ryoji Akiyama, Ken Ohara, Shigeru Tamura and Bishin Jumonji.
It was the first major exhibition about contemporary Japanese photography outside Japan ever.

Kikuji Kawada: The Japanese National Flag, 1960-65

Kikuji Kawada: The Japanese National Flag, 1960-65

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