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Retrospective

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Original author: 
Lee Hutchinson

Adrian (adiera1 on DeviantArt)

369 hours.

That's nine 40-hour work weeks of time spent in the Mass Effect universe, according to the combined reports of Steam, Origin, and my creaky old Xbox 360. Eighty-six hours went into the original Mass Effect (three playthroughs), 189 hours into Mass Effect 2 (six playthroughs), and 94 hours into Mass Effect 3 (three playthroughs).

Commander Shepard and his crew—sometimes her crew, but we'll get to that—have done plenty of galaxy saving under my control. They fought aliens, robots, clones, politicians, and reporters. They stood united against enemies vast and unknowably timeless. They have, in the words of James T. Kirk, "been through death and life together."

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William Klein’s urgent, radical, gritty, blurred and out of focus photographs are as dynamic and visceral as any the medium has produced. His revolutionary magnus opus ‘Life is Good & Good For You in New York’ is an uncompromising, groundbreaking portrait of urban life, which at the time of its publication in 1956 not only shocked the established order, but reinvented the photographic document and is now widely regarded as one of photography’s greatest and most influential works.

Daido Moriyama is the most celebrated photographer to emerge from the Japanese ‘Provoke’ movement. His grainy high contrast black-and-white photographs, focused on the urban environment of post-war Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, echo those of Klein’s New York. Like Klein, Moriyama has consistently revisited, reinvented and reworked his photographs within a process of constant flux.

The Tate Modern’s latest exhibition ‘William Klein + Daido Moriyama‘ brings together the work of the two photographers as a double feature—side by side retrospectives of photographers whose work is inextricably linked but independently minded. 

Following Matisse, Picasso; Albers, Maholy-Nagy; Rodchenko and Popova, the show is the latest in a program of double headers at the Tate Modern that explore two artists and how their work relates to one another. 

Simon Baker, the Tate Modern’s Curator of  Photography and International Art, spoke with TIME about the exhibition—the first full show he has curated since joining Tate Modern.

“It’s a matter of historical record that Klein’s book on New York and then his book on Tokyo were massively influential in Japan, and so the idea of the show exploring both influence and affinity, things that [Klein and Moriyama] have in common beyond the idea of influence, is very important. We are not saying that William was the beginning of all of Moriyama’s ideas, Moriyama was really influenced by Andy Warhol. He was massively influenced by Jack Kerouac and the Beat writers. So he had this series of really interesting dissident American influences of which one of them was William Klein—and we thought this was a good starting point.

Both photographers were really involved in the show’s installations. There are certain places in the show where they had free reign to do what they wanted. William’s response was to make huge blow-ups of his pictures—which realize his constant striving for impact and to make his images as confusing and overwhelming as the cities that they are of.

William Klein

Dakar, school’s out, 1985. Painted contact 1998

Moriyama’s response was to make a huge work called Memory, which is a grid of 1.5 meter wide photographs taken from different points in his career. There are images in there from Provoke, from Farewell Photography, from Japan: a Photo Theater, but there are also things from last year or maybe two years ago. He’s similarly free with his past.

We’ve also tried on the wall to show quite large grids of work so you have the sense of looking at images on the page. We have 70 framed prints from New York—There’s a whole group of children playing like you get in the book. There’s a whole group of shots at night in ballrooms like you get in the book—and also unpublished images from the same series. You get this sense of multiplicity.

We did the same thing with Moriyama. An incredible series of prints of Japan: A Photo Theater—which was his first really important book—are actually cut, mounted as exactly the same pairs that are on the pages of the book. So you’re standing in front of 75 small prints, many of which are like the small pages of the book.

We are not suggesting that the framed works are better than the book, but just that they give you a way into the material in the book, whilst remembering that the book is the really important thing. We’ve tried to keep that balance throughout the show. They think of their work in terms of layouts and sequences and series so we’ve tried to make that a feature of the installation.

Daido Moriyama

Memory of Dog 2, 1982

The show also focuses on what it means to photograph a great city like New York or a great city like Tokyo. And it’s interesting that Klein and Moriyama both photographed each other’s cities. Klein was a New Yorker who photographed New York and then went to Tokyo. Daido initially photographed entirely in Tokyo and then went to New York and did great work there.

Restless is the way to describe Klein’s attitude to his own work. [With Life is Good & Good For You in New York] He knows that he made a great book. And when he talks about it, he talks about wanting to change everything and he talks about blowing things up too big, making everything too grainy. Making the contrast too high. And he talks about that as a very deliberate thing. That he was trying to make a different aesthetic for photography.

Many people regard Robert Frank’s The Americans as the pinnacle of photo book-making, but Frank’s Americans doesn’t have the kind of impact, especially globally as [Life is Good & Good For You in New York]. What Klein’s book did for the way people think about photography in Latin America, in Europe and in Japan is probably unparalleled. And in that sense its greatness is hard to argue with.

But what I also think is really important and what the exhibition really claims is we’re used to thinking of the post-war 60s and 70s in a particular way, often skewed toward America. And for a long time, black-and-white photography, but particularly Japanese black-and-white photography, just wasn’t known here and wasn’t that understood. Provoke was this amazing work being made by a genuine avant-garde with theorists and thinkers and poets and writers. It was a proper thinking, functioning, avant-garde that was happening in Japan. The importance of that is beginning to be understood.

I think in another 10 years or so Moriyama, Takanashi and Nakahira will be as well known and in that moment, as well understood, as Eggleston and Friedlander.

Klein explored photography. He did some of the best photo books ever and moved on [to make films]. He moves in a very restless way, which I think is very interesting. Moriyama has been more consistent. He’s stuck very closely with photography.

The great pleasure for us and the great opportunity for Tate was to work with both of them directly. They’re both really active. Daido is doing amazing work. William’s still making photographs. He’s still interested in working. And for us; in a photography way, it is like getting to work with Matisse and Picasso while they’re still around. They are these great figures and we’re very fortunate to be able to work with them both.”

Simon Baker is the Tate Modern’s Curator of Photography and International Art

The Exhibition William Klein + Daido Moriyama is showing at Tate Modern, London from Oct. 10, 2012 – Jan. 20, 2013

Klein and Moriyama films Directed by Martin Hampton/Produced by Tate Media © TATE 2012

 

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Youth culture, through revolt, unabashedly asks us to question and confront our historical and cultural traditions. In post-war Japan, the explosion of the taiyozoku or sun tribe—a term for the youth sub-culture that emerged in the 1950s—was seen by the older, conservative generations as crude and violent. Flooded with new imagery from the West, there was a break in the connection to the past and thus a rejection of traditional values. Affected by the nouvelle vague Western youth and media, the taiyozoku were pictured as promiscuous and nihilistic, throwing their cares to the wind.

Arriving in Tokyo in 1961, Daido Moriyama began photographing the seedy streets of Shinjuku, a ward ravaged during the war. Although the Shinjuku of today is best known as the economic and commercial center of Tokyo, it still retains a revolutionary spirit that started in its post-war bars and red-light district. Moriyama’s high-contrast, gritty depictions capture the energy native to the neighborhood, creating a visual history of Tokyo’s youth throughout one of its most combustible phases in history. It is this power that shapes Moriyama’s work, creating an unfolding visual testament to the cultural landscape of post-war Japan.

A new exhibition pays tribute to Moriyama’s four decade relationship with Shinjuku, which serves as a photographic act of memory and desire. In Fracture: Daido Moriyama, opening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on April 7, these notions are explored through a selection of prints and books, as well as recent color work. Moriyama began his career in Tokyo assisting the photographer Eikoh Hosoe. Hosoe was a member of the influential artist collective VIVO, which served to capture the significant cultural and structural changes within Japanese society. In line with this method of working, Moriyama began to roam the streets of Shinjuku and, since the early 1960s, has been witness to the ever-changing and expanding post-WWII landscape—a fractured, strange world that oscillates between time and space, reality and fiction.

Fracture: Daido Moriyama is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from April 7 through July 31.

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Retrospective exhibits, while an enviable chance to create a cohesive story from a lifetime’s worth of work, can be a curator’s nightmare: pieces have to be gathered from all over the world, selected at a distance, organized before they even get to the gallery. Not so the new retrospective of the work of Robert Adams, the photographer famous for documenting the people and landscapes of the American West—both natural and manmade—who is approaching his 75th birthday this May. The show, which opens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on March 11, was put together at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) from the master set of thousands of prints donated to the gallery by the photographer in 2004.

“We had time to work with originals and precisely strike a tone that we thought the overall exhibition should have,” says Joshua Chuang of the YUAG, who worked with Adams to curate the images that the show comprises. Adams had preserved the best prints of his work throughout his career and he was instrumental in sculpting the retrospective, which will travel for two years following its time at LACMA. “It’s a very special artist indeed who is the best editor of his own work,” says Chuang. “Adams is really exceptional in that way.”

The resulting show is not intended to be merely a collection of over 300 pictures that happen to be the work of one artist, but rather a single, epic piece of work. It includes each of his major projects, dating back to 1964, and dozens of photo books that he has produced. LACMA’s installation also includes a multimedia reading room and a variety of related programs, from a botany-themed tour to talks with local artists who have been inspired by Adams’ work.

Chuang says that, taken together, the pictures in the show demonstrate how, even though many people think that a camera captures a literal version of the world, the art of photography is one of fiction. “The way that fiction functions is very tricky because it’s using facts to tell a fiction, and it has the appearance of fact,” he says. Robert Adams’ particular devotion to those facts, especially when it comes to capturing the precise look of light that may be flat or boring or dim, was so extreme that the photographer, viewing prints of a photograph taken decades before, was able to describe to curators the exact feeling of standing in a particular spot thirty years ago, and how that feeling ought to come across in the image. Chuang says that such fastidiousness about light means that Robert Adams’ work probably captures the West more accurately than that of the other chronicler of that region, Ansel Adams. But that faithfulness doesn’t mean a lack of artistry. Robert Adams’ skill at capturing nondescript light conjures up an experience—whether it’s in a Target store or the desert—with unexpected intricacy.

“He makes smog in California look ethereal and beautiful,” says Chuang.

And because of his relationship with that state, the photographer’s series of Los Angeles photographs will be highlighted in the show’s LACMA incarnation, in order to allow visitors to compare the environment of their daily lives with the one captured on film, says Edward Robinson, LACMA curator.

“It will be great for people to see this extraordinary photographer’s understanding and exploration of the area, to see how changes in the built environment have been reflected in the landscape,” says Robinson, “and what even the trees can suggest about the use of the land over time.”

Robert Adams: The Place We Live will be on view at LACMA from March 11 through June 3. Find out more about the exhibit here, or visit the YUAG companion site here.

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Even before everybody had a digital camera, it was a universal modern skill to take photographs. But more than that, for a long time it’s been a universal skill to be photographed. For several decades now, everybody has known how to put on his or her game face and wait for the click. Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra has become famous by taking that as her point of departure, then wondering what happens when we can’t hold the pose. The answer: a moment of truth. One thing you learn at the new Dijkstra retrospective, currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and moving in June to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, is that no matter how much you try to put on the social mask, it keeps slipping.

After graduating from an Amsterdam art school in 1986, Dijkstra, who is 52, made a living for a while shooting portraits for a Dutch business magazine. It was frustrating work, taking pictures of executives who knew all too well how to keep up their guard. Eventually, she returned to more personal picture-taking. Very quickly, Dijkstra found an international audience. For her breakthrough project in the early ’90s, she persuaded teenagers at beaches in the U.S. and Europe to pose against a bare backdrop of sky, sea and shore. The fascination of those pictures comes partly from the mind’s attempt to reconcile the “timeless” setting with the sometimes awkward, and often futile, attempts by the teens to assume the attitudes of glamor and cool they think the camera requires.

Hoping to catch people with their defenses down, Dijkstra started to photograph them in the aftermath of some exhausting event. She got women to pose soon after giving birth, usually standing naked while they cradled their newborns. By 1994 she was also making portraits of Portuguese forcados—amateur bullfighters who enter the ring in unarmed groups to subdue the bulls bare-handed. She photographed them right after they returned from the fight, bloody, scuffed and dented.

To watch someone evolve from youth into adult awareness, Dijkstra has sometimes followed a single subject for years—a French boy who joins the foreign legion, a Bosnian refugee girl as she grows up in the Netherlands—as his or her life goes through changes. Or, as she did with the kids on beaches, she will go to parks and photograph very contemporary people in a setting that pulls them out of time—but only so far. And to make sure her pictures don’t take on a false timelessness, Dijkstra makes sure each one carries in its title the very real location in which it was taken and the date.

Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective is on display from Feb. 18 through May 28 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and will open at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City on June 29.

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