woensdag 1 februari 2012

God is dead, and naked human beings face the world shameless and without pride Man and Woman Eikoh Hosoe Photography

Eikoh Hosoe was born in Yonezawa, Yamagata in 1933 and graduated from Tokyo College of Photography in 1951. He exhibited in his first solo show in 1956 and has since established himself as an internationally acclaimed photographer. Hosoe's figures have a Surrealist quality that is startlingly intimate, yet also render the flesh abstract and strange.

His approach to photography is philosophical, "… To me photography can be simultaneously both a record and a mirror or window of self-expression… The camera is generally assumed to be unable to depict that which is not visible to the eye and yet, the photographer who wields it well can depict what lies unseen in his memory." Renowned Japanese author, Yukio Mishima wrote of Hosoe’s photographs, “God is dead, and naked human beings face the world shameless and without pride.”

Eikoh Hosoe’s work has been exhibited in such significant institutions as the International Center of Photography and Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Nikon Salon, Tokyo; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Smithsonian, Washington D. C. Published works include: Man and Woman, 1959, Embrace, 1971, The Cosmos of Gaudi, 1986 and Eikoh Hosoe, 1986, among numerous others. He has been a professor of photography at Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics since 1975 teaching various photography workshops worldwide.

Review by GEOFF GEHMAN, The Morning Call ...
For Hosoe, photography has always been a forum for autobiography. Evacuation from his native Tokyo to the countryside during World War II helped make him a wanderer; the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima helped make him a lonely wanderer. Factor in rebellions against his father, a Buddhist priest, and conservative Japanese photography, and it becomes clear why he's such a theatrical humanitarian.
In "Kamaitachi," a 1965-68 series, Hosoe allegorizes his, and Japan's, isolation. A sad clown, named for an invisible "sickle-toothed weasel," roams rural districts in a mental fog. He perches like a frog in the corner of a giant fence; he looks utterly miserable in the middle of a happy crowd. Using an actor to express a childhood self could have been awkward, even melodramatic. But Hosoe's choreography is subtle, touching, strikingly ambiguous.
Estrangement turns ghostly in the 1971-75 series "Simmon: A Private Landscape." An androgynous female member of an environmental theater company haunts an industrial area near Tokyo's Arakawa River, one of Hosoe's haunts. Simmon's glowing presence and Hosoe's compelling composition elevate wasteland to psychological park.
"Man and Woman" (1959-60) was Hosoe's first revolutionary act. To criticize Japan's repressed sexuality, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur's oppressive occupation, he worked with members of the Butoh Dance Troupe, a company formed to counter numbed, spasmodic post-war Japan. In Hosoe's photos, performers model naked bodies as surrealistic abstractions. Whether turning a backside into a cello/table, or a bent arm into a vise for a head, Hosoe nimbly walks a tightrope between eroticism and death, detachment and attachment.
"Embrace" (1969-70) confirms bare flesh as inviting sculpture. Three pelvises are aligned tightly, pictured from the side, and cropped impressively; a bulging dark arm wraps a china-white midsection like marble animated by Bernini. Credit Hosoe for imposing his will on strong-willed subjects and raising their mutual charisma.
Hosoe's most aggressive partner is author Yukio Mishima, renowned for his samurai mentality. In the 1961-62 "Barakei (Ordeal by Roses)" series, Mishima's warrior body anchors a phantasmagoria of religious symbols, architectural elements and wild dreams. While the collages seethe with curiosity and vitality, they're too disconnected, too jigsawed. They predict Mishima's suicide, but they fail to capture his assessment of Hosoe's images: "God is dead, and naked human beings face the world shameless and without pride."
Hosoe's portraits of quieter subjects speak louder. People inform their spaces, and vice versa, no matter how plain the setting. Prints from the "Kimono" series are styled as exquisitely as Chinese porcelains. Hosoe accomplishes the neat trick of giving a fashion model the suggestion of an intriguing interior. Too bad only three prints are displayed; it would have been good to see an image of a mourning widow, a relatively public stance for a relatively private country.
Perhaps Hosoe's most meta deed is "The Cosmos of Gaudi." He waited 13 years before he began photographing Antonio Gaudi's architecture, then devoted seven years to depicting these wondrous creations. The wisdom of patience, of mentally absorbing and arranging, obviously paid off.

A foreshortened view of Gaudi's famously fanciful Barcelona cathedral is both Gothically stern and playfully futurist. Oozingly plastic close-ups of ornaments are as luscious as vegetables photographed by Hosoe mentor Edward Weston. Once again, Hosoe changes, blends and improves the natures of very different creatures; once again, he's a prying poet.

See also 40 definitive publications in Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s Photography

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