Heavy Light: Photography & Video from Japan has been at the top of my wish list of photo exhibits ever since the first of many press releases caught my eye. This show at International Center of Photography was fresh and unique and ably served the shows intention of providing quality Japanese work that has not received wide exposure in the United States. The show is presented on two floors and incorporates a wide range of work by 13 photographers. Nakagawa Yukio's photographs of his nationally known Ikebana work presented both stunningly beautiful and borderline vulgarity in his attempts to permanently collect his temporary works of art. A nice balance to this theme were the whimsical Vegetable Weapons series by Ozawa Tsuyoshi.
Narahashi Asako's series half awake and half asleep in the water worked extremely well along side Suzuki Risaku's Kumano series depicting a Shinto fire ceremony pilgrimage. Both of these series require viewing as a whole and especially in Risaku's work, in sequence, to be fully appreciated. As in most of the work in this show, the explanatory text must be read in order to understand the presented series, and that is particularly true of Risaku's Kumano
The best people photography was the work of Hiroh Kikai and Tomoko Sawada. Kikai interviews strangers he meets on the streets of Tokyo and then photographs them in poses of their choosing with his medium format Hasselblad. His black & white photography is in the style of August Sander's portraits. Sawada on the other hand has only one muse, and that is herself. Her previous works include photobooth and yearbook photography that satires Japanese homogeneity and conformity. Her School Days works shown in this exhibit are remarkable and are easily the show favorites from what I could see in the reactions of viewers.
Roberta Smith, in the New York Times, calls this show "average, or a little less". I couldn't disagree with her more, and it makes me wonder what she was looking at. I saw a unique cross section of Japanese culture as seen through contemporary photographers, presented in a well balanced and thoughtful way.
Heavy Light Details