Filtering by Tag: japanese photography
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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Join us at the opening of Tomoko Sawada's latest works SIGN and SKIN at ROSEGALLERY. The gallery has arranged a meeting with the artist for PAC/LA members. September 26, 6-8 PM.
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Review: Rinko Kawauchi Ametsuchi (2013)
By Sören Schuhmacher for ASX, September 2013
Rinko Kawauchi’s new book Ametsuchi (Heaven and Earth) published by Aperture, reads like a Haruki Murakami novel. Kawauchi merges reality with the spiritual world and reveals an invisible but tangent point of connection between apparently unrelated events. Even the concept of Ametsuchioriginates from a dream, Rinko Kawauchi had years ago.
“I was drinking my coffee on a Sunday morning, idly watching TV with my head still half-asleep, I was surprised to suddenly see the image from that dream reappear. It was a scene of many people and horses together in a green meadow before a large mountain – a place called Aso.”
Rinko Kawauchi entered a new territory with Ametsuchi. This time she worked with a 4×5 large format camera instead her Rolleiflex, which led her to break out from the self-imposed pattern of the square format. Also the typical soft tones in her images disappear. They became darker and reveal an almost mystical atmosphere.
Aso, where most of the photographs were taken, is a region famous for it’s 1,300-year-old farming ritual, in which fields are burned on an annual basis in advance of planting new crops. The agricultural burning and the cyclical nature of life, functions as the central theme in the book.
Kawauchi is known for her exceptional editing of her books and the manner to tell a story on a page by juxtaposition of two images. Although her previous books were always pursuing a certain concept, they could be considered more like a collection of short stories than a novel without an ongoing storyline. Ametsuchi on the other side, is sequenced with single images on a double page, which invites the viewer to follow the story through the entire book, from beginning to end.
The book starts with a smoke darkened sky, caused by the flames of the agriculture burning, that turn the dry fields into an apocalyptic landscape. In the further course, burning fields, green meadows and in snow covered landscapes alternate to illustrate a recurring cycle and and the elapse of time.
At about the middle of the book, images of a theatrical Shinto dance ceremony, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and the starry sky in a planetarium were interspersed. Different from the agricultural burnings, the images of the Wailing Wall and the Shinto dance ceremony are blurred and overexposed. The sudden appearing and disappearing of these interspersed images, are like zapping through TV channels, where different events, at different locations, take place at the same time.
At first glance this events seem unrelated, but under a closer look, they all representing a certain resistance in a time that rapidly changes. Rituals – Spiritual remains of the beginning of mankind, formed a circle by passing on from generation to generation. Ametsuchi is a veneration of the invisible world that has continued since the distant past. Rinko Kawauchi uses these rituals as a juncture between past and present, spiritual world and reality, heaven and earth.
The award-winning Dutch designer, Hans Gremmen, translated the concept of Ametsuchi into the book design, and managed even to enlarge Kawauchi’s work by pushing the photobook to the next level. Questioning the medium of the book, and how people tend to use them, Ametsuchi is bound in a variation of a Japanese binding. The upper sides of the pages are closed and the bottoms open, which generates a space between the actual pages that can only be seen by lifting the pages bottom corners up. In this almost hidden space, the images are the inverted color version from the outer surface, visualizing a parallel world, where darkness turns into light, fire into water and vice versa. As a nice extra the dust jacket of the book is also a double-sided poster with a inverted image of the cover on the back. Nothing was left to chance and is perfectly integrated into the main concept, from the beginning to the end.
This leads to the last image in the book, which shows the actual scene of people and horses together in a green meadow before a large mountain. The scene, Rinko Kawauchi dreamt about and which later reappeared on television – a recurring cycle.
“On the ground of one of the stars among the immense universe, I think of the beginning, The Earth is a mirror to project heaven. Photography captures the mirror. It connects the Earth and heaven. When the darkness reaches at the bottom, the light will arrive.”
- Rinko Kawauchi
ASX CHANNEL: RINKO KAWAUCHI
(All rights reserved. Text @ Sören Schuhmacher and ASX, Images @ Rinko Kawauchi)
(© Asako Narahashi, courtesy Rose Gallery, Los Angeles)
Once again from the Pier 24 photography space in San Francisco, this is a view of Mount Fuji from the surface of Lake Kawaguchiko, taken in 2003 by Asako Narahashi. Of course, the true subject of the work is its world-famous doppelganger, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, woodblock printed by Katsushika Hokusai in about 1831. The differences matter as much as any likenesses. Hokusai shows us the disembodied view of a kind of omniscient narrator – an “omniscient looker”, you could say – who seems to glimpse the struggling sailors almost by accident as he takes in distant Mount Fuji. (Shades of W.H. Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts”). Whereas with Narahashi, we see the mountain through modern eyes immersed in the water but made impervious to it by technology. Water splashes onto the glass of the floating photographer’s lens but has no effect; the sun’s flare off the surface of the lake is forced to take on the hexagonal shape of the camera’s aperture. Narahashi reflects on her culture’s past, from its present.