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Tomoko Sawada in ARTWEEK LA

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SIGN, the artist's most recent work, is both a startling departure from the past and an innovative use of her iconic style honed over the past decade. Opens September 26 at RoseGallery.

Since her 1999 breakthrough series, ID400, Tomoko Sawada’s work has remained at the cutting edge of conceptual photography and contemporary art.  Until recently, Sawada’s pictures have focused exclusively on her self and her assumed identities, employing an uncanny ability to alter her persona, producing simple, fresh images that raise questions about cultural identity, gender performativity, the perception of the self and authorship in photography.  And like ID400, many of her series have relied on the repetition of images in grids, a format appropriate to work highly consistent in form but elastic in detail.

Her most recent work, produced during a residency with The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is both a startling departure from the past and an innovative use of her iconic style honed over the past decade.  In 2012 she was invited by the museum to work with a local business and produce a new body of work based on the unique materials, history and processes associated with the host institution, which in this case, was Heinz, a brand synonymous with the city’s legacy.  Sawada, who is acclaimed for her humorous and extensive self-portraits, collaborated with Heinz to investigate branding as a form of portraiture.  The result is a tangle between an artist who has, up to this point, only used images of her self in a multitude of guises and a condiment company easily recognized on store shelves the world over.

Sign/KETCHUP & Sign/MUSTARD are large grids of 56 images of the Heinz condiment bottles.  At a distance the plastic, inverted bottle featuring the iconic Heinz label looks a bit like a head, a direct reference to Sawada’s previous I.D.-style self-portraits. Upon closer inspection one realizes that “Tomato Ketchup” or “Mustard” has been translated into 56 languages from the countries around the globe where Heinz is sold. The artist has altered the company’s linguistic face in a manner that parallels her previous work, which relied on morphing her own face into a striking range of identities based on age, ethnicity and personality.   But rather than over-the-the counter cosmetics and costume changes, she dresses her Heinz bottles with text; she accumulated the text using Google image search, translation websites, Wikipedia, and her artist page on Facebook where she enlisted international friends and fans in the task.  And even with the linguistic change, what remains is the brand’s utter recognizability. In Tomoko Sawada’s photographs the languages themselves can be hard to identify but the corporate identity is impossible to shake. She exposes our culture’s overwhelming ability to identify with the face of an international brand, even as we may struggle to recognize a neighboring culture and its language.

Tomoko Sawada was born in 1977 in Kobe, Japan and studied at the Seian University of Art and Design.  She has been a recipient of the Grand Prize at the Canon New Cosmos of Photography, the ICP Infinity Hyogo Arts Award and the prestigious Kimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award.  Her work is held by internationally renowned collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the International Center of Photography, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Essl Collection, Klosternerberg, Austria, the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum. Monographs of Tomoko Sawada’s work include:  ID400, Seigensha Art Publishing, 2004; School Days, Seigensha Art Publishing, 2006; Masquerade, Akaaka Art Publishing, 2006.

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Bill Bush for Artweek.LA : Los Angeles Then and Now

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Bruce Davidson: 1964 / 2012 | Bruce Davidson first came to Los Angeles in 1964 on assignment for Esquire magazine. As a young New Yorker in L.A., he found himself at odds with what he described as a "cultural desert with acrid air, bumper-to-bumper traffic, tall palms, and seedy Hollywood types." Davidson approached this foreign landscape with the sardonic eye of an outsider looking in. The resulting images, shot with a 35mm camera, play with archetypes and stereotypes of the city with a quick and clever irony: bodybuilders and starlets; sunbathers and signwavers; the similarly glimmering cars and glistening surf of a beach parking lot; desperate hopefuls walking the streets in search of something more.

Nearly 45 years after Davidson first visited Los Angeles, he returned to the city with a vastly different shooting agenda. The crowded and buzzing social landscape of 1964 now serves as a distant backdrop for the quiet integrity of Davidson's clawed up yuccas, attenuated palms, and parched hillsides. This exhibition marries two series, the wry and the romantic, to present a multifaceted portrait of our city.

Bruce Davidson: 1964 / 2012 closes September 21 at RoseGallery

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Hisaji Hara — Artweek.LA

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Hisaji Hara: A Photographic Portrayal of the Photographs of Balthus

June 26, 2012

Using medium-format film and meticulous in-camera methods, Hisaji Hara reinvents the legendary and provocative paintings of highly revered 20th century figurative painter, Balthus (1908-2001). Closes July 7 at RoseGallery.

In his staged tableaux, Hara appropriates the adolescent subjects featured in Balthus’ canvases, paying particular attention to details in posture and expression. The setting as well as the costuming, however, are uniquely Japanese. Thus, the artist culls from the suggestive vocabulary of the originals – paintings simultaneously youthful and erotic – while playing with strict architectural formalism and Lolitaesque obsessions that anchor the work in Japanese cultural traditions.

Hara’s technique involves creating multiple exposures in-camera without computer manipulation, coupled with the use of smoke machines and cinematic lighting. The result is a highly enchanting and singular print quality that reinforces the poignant longing and adolescent reverie that his subjects embody.

Hisaji Hara was born in Tokyo, Japan, and graduated from the Musashino University of Art and Design in 1986. In 1993 he emigrated to the United States and worked as a director of photography for television and documentary film before returning to Japan in 2001. “A photographic portrayal of the paintings of Balthus” was made over a period of five years beginning in 2006. In 2010 he received first prize at the Yokohama Photo Festival for the work.

Text and images courtesy of Artweek.LA

This Artweek.LA

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Double Vision: This Artweek.LA

June 25, 2012

Hisaji Hara: A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus | Using medium-format film and meticulous in-camera methods, Hisaji Hara reinvents the legendary and provocative paintings of highly revered 20th century figurative painter, Balthus (1908-2001). In his staged tableaux, Hara appropriates the adolescent subjects featured in Balthus' canvases, paying particular attention to details in posture and expression. The setting as well as the costuming, however, are uniquely Japanese. Thus, the artist culls from the suggestive vocabulary of the originals -- paintings simultaneously youthful and erotic -- while playing with strict architectural formalism and Lolitaesque obsessions that anchor the work in Japanese cultural traditions.

Hisaji Hara: A Photographic Portrayal of the Paintings of Balthus closes July 7 at RoseGallery

Francisco Toledo: Multiples | Best known for his depictions of a reality where the world of animals and humans forms a continuous unity, Toledo, an extremely versatile artist, works in varied media including painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, and photography. This new exhibit features 40 mixed-media works. Many of these feature laser-cut elements, made from Toledo's drawings, collaged to vellum or heavy paper and painted in oil or watercolor. Four of these have been made in numbered editions, however Toledo has hand-painted each piece in the edition. Some works feature a net motif that ties together the composition. These nets have a web-like beauty but, like a spiders web, are capable of entrapping living creatures.

Francisco Toledo: Multiples closes July 7 at Latin American Masters

To read more from This Artweek.LA (June 25, 2012), click here.

Artweek.LA: Elger Esser

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Elger Esser: Voyage en Egypte

December 24, 2011

Taken from a great distance with the artist’s signature precision and formal grace, the photographs of Voyage en Egypte are calm, grandiose landscapes in addition to being provocative meditations on light, space and color.  Large expanses of water and sky in dissipating pastel hues form the cornerstone of these compositions, while the land and civilization itself provide sharp but remote horizon lines which are dwarfed by the natural elements.  Like 19th century landscape paintings, which are strongly echoed in these works, Esser’s latest photographs capture an element of the sublime in nature.  The mystery and beauty of the river, which has been the lifeline of Egypt since the Stone Age, is elevated in these images, and like his previous work, they strategically blur the line between pure documentary photography and painterly concerns.  RoseGallery’s exhibition marks the debut of Voyage en Egypte in the United States and is the first in-depth presentation of Esser’s work in Los Angeles.

Elger Esser was born in Stuttgart in 1967 and was raised in Rome.  In 1986, he moved to Dusseldorf, where he worked as a commercial photographer until 1991.  He then attended the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie, Studying with Bernd and Hilla Becher until 1997.  His work has been published in several monographs published by Schirmer/Mosel Verlag including Vedutas and Landscapes, 2000; Elger Esser, Cap d’Antifer-Etretat, 2002; Anischten/Views/Vues, 2008; and Elger Esser, Eigenzeit,, 2009.  He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Kunstpreis der Stadt Dusselfdorf, Forderkoje Art Cologne, Friebe Gallery, and the Deutsches Studienzentrum Venedig.  Esser’s pictures are included in numerous public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Guggenheim Foundation; Kunsthaus, Zurich; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Text Courtesy of Artweek.LA