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Before March 11

Japan Today
 by Osamu Kanemura. Source: amadorgallery.com
Osamu Kanemura

“Japan Today” is a misnomer. In this exhibition by Taiji Matsue, Osamu Kanemura and Mikiko Hara — three of Japan’s best known contemporary photographers — all the images were taken before March 11, 2011, the day when northeastern Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The most directly affected artist in this exhibition was most likely Taijii Matsue. Eight of his nine elevated aerial views of landscapes, cities and ocean are from his JP-22 series, which refers to Japan’s 22nd prefecture or the Shizuoka region – the quake’s epicenter. So it’s quite possible that some of the patchwork quilts of farmland, forested areas, densely populated urban areas and abstract shapes seen in these images are now bits of history — obliterated or altered by the huge natural disaster. The images may stand the test of time better than the actuality. That said, the two aerial photos of the cities could be mistaken for Google Earth views and are less interesting than those of farms and forests. These come across as more abstract, and consequently have a greater dimensionality.

For something completely different and hundreds of miles away from Shizuoka, Osamu Kanemura brings us back to earth — to Tokyo. In his series of black and white images entitled “My Name is Shockhammer, 2007,” Kanemura takes to the streets and shows how intricate networks of overhead telephone wires and cables interconnect Tokyo. Bicycles are parked haphazardly, wires seem to be everywhere, it feels claustrophobic, and that’s the point. Isn’t Tokyo notorious for its density and lack of space? Kanemura’s black and white prints are dark toned, which is apparently the photographer’s style. At first I didn’t care for it but after a second and third glance, the darkness seems to add a sense of mystery or foreboding. It’s certainly not the tourist’s view of Tokyo.

Untitled (Agnus Dei) by Mikiko Hara. Source: amadorgallery.com
Mikiko Hara, "Untitled (Agnus Dei)" 1998

Mikiko Hara’s work offers something the two other photographers don’t — people.

In her color exhibition called “Hysteric Thirteen,” Hara captures candid views of Japanese adults and children on the street, in a restaurant, a terminal, subway and on the beach with a casual snapshot approach that is both different and strangely appealing. The pictures have pastel hues; some have sloppy edges showing fragments of arms, shoulders or odd angles. In some, the subjects look at the camera, but most are expressionless and appear alienated and unconnected. The best example is the last image of the series; it shows a woman surrounded by passers-by, a blank, empty look on her face. These are not happy faces.

In “Japan Today,” the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The diversity of subject matter and styles still provide an opportunity to view Japan from a different perspective, even in the wake of recent natural disasters.


Japan Today


Amador Gallery
41 E 57th St. 6th Fl
Midtown         Map

212 759 6740
amadorgallery.com

Wednesday, April 13 to
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Hours: Summer Hours: Tues-Fri 11 to 5:30
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