Review: Photographer Hisaji Hara channels Balthus at Rose

Added on by ROSEGALLERY.

Hisaji Hara's "A study of 'The Room.'"

Hisaji Hara's ravishing photographs at Rose are billed as "portrayals" of the paintings of Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski de Rola, 1908-2001). They adopt subjects, poses and scenarios from the French artist's work, but like all acts of translation they interpret rather than merely replicate, and have a provocative life of their own.

Young girls spread languorously across chairs and benches, in postures of surrender -- to sleep or potentially seduce. One gazes at herself in a hand mirror; another, on all fours, reads a book on the floor. Hara's adolescent models are Japanese and wear traditional schoolgirl uniforms (based on British sailor suits), which in Japan carry a peculiar sexual charge. Still, if the stilted eroticism in Balthus' scenes frequently jolts, these altered versions vibrate with subtler, more sublimated tension.

Hara, who lives outside Tokyo, staged the pictures in an Art Nouveau-style medical clinic built in the 1920s, lending the scenes a sense of temporal remove. The palpable, luminous atmosphere within (created with the help of a fog machine) further shifts the images into a stylized past, dreamlike and vaguely pictorialist. Balthus' palette, rich in reds and earthen golds, has been traded for a soft grisaille. Complementing the figurative pieces are several beautiful still lifes. One breathtaking assembly of persimmons, freckled and split, speaks as poignantly as Hara's young women of ripeness, purity and vulnerability.

Rose Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 264-8440, through July 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Text courtesy of the Los Angeles Times