In the aftermath of the tsunami, the photos coming out of Japan were horrific. The current show at the Amador Gallery offers an earlier view of Japan as seen through the eyes of three Japanese photographers. “I had another show scheduled, but decided to do this,” says Paul Amador. “These people are having a tough time.”
In 2007, Mikiko Hara, had a larger exhibit at the Amador Gallery. In 30 days, the gallery sold 40 of Hara’s photographs, 17 to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Besides Hara, works by Osamu Kanemura and Taiji Matsue are on display in Japan Today. “I wanted the show to be about Japan,” said Amador, “and include works not shown here before.”
Amador has done a masterful job combining works from three contemporary artists with very different styles. Hara’s photographs, taken from her book Hysteric Thirteen, show people standing in line, riding on a train, doing common things that seem uneventful. Yet there is tension beneath the surface, with the subjects, usually women, avoiding eye contact with the camera. The show’s notes observe that “the people seem aware that they are being watched, whether by Hara or by more sinister social forces.” There is much going on beneath the surface here, much to contemplate.
While Hara’s photographs capture her subjects up close, Taiji Matsue’s JP-22 series are aerial views of the 22nd prefecture of Japan, the Shizuoka region. Seen from so high up, these photographs seem like abstract paintings, inviting other interpretations. One photograph of kayaks looks like something that might be viewed under a microscope, while another of a lush golf course, resembles a quilt. Be warned: these photographs are mesmerizing.
Osamu Kanemura gives us a totally different view of Japan—black and white, up close, and devoid of people. Kanemura’s frames are criss-crossed with wires, an electrical jungle that powers the busy city of Tokyo. What might seem tangled and ugly instead creates intricate, almost beautiful patterns. While this network seems chaotic, the wires also connect people and, therefore, are responsible for creating order.
While all of the photographs in this exhibit were taken before the recent tragedy hit Japan, taken together they provide hope for the future. We see the beauty of the country through Matsue’s aerial views, the resilience of the people seen among the women in Hara’s photos, and the country’s infrastructure, evident in Kanemura’s tangle of wires. Japan Today illustrates that there is hope for the future.
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