More instructive than inspired, ICP's exhibition of recent photography and video from Japan takes as its burden several themes including the "the relationship of nature and the manmade world, the reexamination of Japanese tradition, personal identity as a form of costume play, and the role of the child as a cultural icon." These are honorable themes and the photographers have eyes that are by turns poetic, ironic, and frank. The show, though, exposes more the problematic of curatorial projects that seek too easily to describe culture than it reveals much in depth as far as the command of the artists as such.
Regardless of the curatorial problem (and the problem generally that is ICP's space), Naoya Hatakeyama's River Series is formally surprising, each one a born diptych of urban airspace and concrete underworlds. Asako Narahashi's photographs seem to hold the water they depict, sloshing in their frames. The girls' heads digitally adhered to the bodies of young, flirtatious boys in Midori Komatsubara's imagery are fun if not particularly challenging in their ironic, white, ornamental frames. Yukio Nakagawa's photographs of ikebana are far weirder than they sound, and Tomoko Sawada finds her face a flexible source of multiple identities in a way as profound as the practice of Nikki Lee. I will look for these photographers again, in perhaps a more fruitful choreography.
- Farrah Karapetian
Images: Miwa Yanagi, Fairy Tales Series: Gretel (2004); Kenji Yanobe, Blue Cinema in the Woods (2006). Courtesy of the artists and ICP.