Controversial Japanese Post-War Photographs on Display at the Phoenix Art Museum
Ikko Narahara. Sojiji, Japan (1969)
“Japanese #53.” Gelatin silver print. Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Gift of the artist.
The Phoenix Art Museum presents a new exhibition of post-World War II avant-garde photographs.
Farewell Photography: The Hitachi Collection of Postwar Japanese Photographs, 1961-1989, highlights how provocative this style was during a charged and controversial political time in Japan.
The works represent a radical departure from photorealism used as a tool of Japanese state propaganda and in journalism, for example.
According to curator Audrey Sands, many of the 87 works on display feature grainy, high-contrast black-and-white photos that resemble abstract art versus realism.
Sands said: “Throughout the 20and century, there has been a lot of historical tension between the two poles of photography: abstraction and naturalism. Huge debates about the artistic value of photography have also been part of this tension.
Mark Koenig, Acting Director of Sybil Harrington and CEO of the Phoenix Art Museum, said in a separate statement: “Farewell Photography offers a unique opportunity for museum visitors to experience a category of photography that has helped shape the photographic medium in Japan. and worldwide, a glimpse into the evolution of the medium as it was shaped by the experience of war and the onset of the nuclear age.
The exhibited works come from the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.
“This collection offers the opportunity to dig into some previously unexplored strengths of CCP’s collection,” Sands said, also in a separate statement. “When I think of our audience in Phoenix, I want to broaden the view beyond the North American story of the history of modern photography and look at this extraordinarily rich and cutting-edge cultural output, and how the photography was used as protest.Having a more holistic understanding of this time of social unrest and of a generation that challenged governments and norms is, I believe, an essential vocabulary for us to better understand our own times.
The exhibition runs until the end of June and the public can attend many free days.