Shades of the Departed
MIYAKO YOSHINAGA art prospects is pleased to present Shades of the Departed, a solo exhibition featuring new photography and video work by Takahiro Kaneyama.
Following SHUMAFURA, his 2009 exhibition at the gallery, Takahiro Kaneyama creates transcendent photographic reflections on one of the holiest sites in northern Japan, Mt. Osore. According to traditional Japanese lore, this active volcano—whose name means “Mount Fear”—is the gateway to Hell, through which the souls of the deceased must pass on their way to the underworld. Every summer, this mythical place attracts many visitors who seek to remember and console the departed souls of their loved ones.
Each of the seven large color photographs in Shades of the Departed reveals a different mood of this foreboding landscape, which features a white, sandy shoreline that separates Heaven from Hell. The wild and rocky stretches evoke despair, while the calm lake water and early-summer sky exude a melancholic purity. From a distance, fresh flower bouquets placed on the Heaven side by pilgrims look like bathers lying on the beach. Up close, white and yellow mums and pink carnations, beaten and dehydrated, acutely express the fragility and transience of life. In one striking image, a row of colorful toy pinwheels stand at attention on the beach against a bluish background of mountain, sea and sky. Placed there for those who died as children, these pinwheels make otherworldly screeching sounds that can even be heard from far away. Kaneyama invites us to experience these enigmatic sounds, which still linger in his mind, in a video presented on three small monitors juxtaposed with his photographs.
Shades of the Departed quietly yet powerfully addresses universal themes that go beyond a particular culture or faith, exploring the trajectory of life, from birth to death. Just before shooting this series, Kaneyama travelled to the northeast coasts of Japan, which were struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in March 2011, for a New York Times Magazine photo assignment. Having seen the unimaginable destruction that caused so much loss of life, he gradually moved from emotional distress and fatigue to the spiritual embrace of Mt. Osore. Kaneyama’s work refers less to the departed and their afterlife than those who survive and their continued duties and responsibilities in this life. This pragmatism anchors the ephemeral beauty in Shades of the Departed.
Born in Tokyo in 1971, Takahiro Kaneyama came to New York and studied film at the City College of New York, earned an MFA in Photography and Related Media at the School of Visual Arts and then studied documentary photography at the International Center of Photography. The recipient of several photo awards, Kaneyama has exhibited in Tokyo, Osaka, New York, Milwaukee and Zurich. His work has been reviewed and reproduced by the New York Times, ARTnews, DART Design Art Daily and Wraparound Magazine. Following the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, Kaneyama issued five benefit photo prints of northern Japan from his SHUMAFURA series (2008). All proceeds went to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, which was set up by New York’s Japan Society Inc. to help victims of the disaster.