Monday, June 15, 2009

Hiroh Kikai: Persona @Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 14 gelatin silver prints, framed in black and matted, and hung in the main gallery space. All of the images are 14x14 and have been printed in editions of 20. These are recent prints from negatives taken between 1974 and 2003. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Several months ago, we talked in depth about Hiroh Kikai's excellent monograph, Asakusa Portraits (review here). Rather than cover all of the background to this series once again, I'd suggest that interested readers should go back at the original review for additional context on this work and its display in book form.

This particular show has selected a representative sample of Kikai's portraits from the early 1970s to the present, showing the subtle refinement and evolution of his visual approach over the years, culminating in the framework that he is now using in all of the works. In person, the portraits are well crafted, engaging, humble and memorable, and I continue to think Kikai is an under appreciated photographer.

That said, I think a chance was missed to create an installation with a little more visual excitement. While the row of eye level portraits widely spaced throughout the gallery is a safe choice, given the consistent square format of the prints, I think tighter grids or pairs or even double rows of images might have worked better, while also allowing for the display of more images. Part of the success of the monograph is found in the ability to see many of these images one after another, highlighting the eccentricities of the sitters. Another angle might have been to place the understated titles on the wall somehow; again, these snippets of text, often laced with wry humor, are part of the charm of these portraits - this is missed when the titles are only found buried in the price list.
So while I certainly enjoyed seeing portraits from this series once again, I came away with a vague feeling of dissatisfaction, wishing there had been more.

Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced at either $3900 or $4900, including the frame. To date, there is no secondary market in Kikai's work. While we are not portrait collectors, we still appreciate Kikai's work and think the best of his images would hold the wall well with other portraits from across the history of the medium.
Rating: * (1 star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Interview with Marc Feustel @Lens Culture, 2008 (here)
  • Asakusa Portraits (here)
Hiroh Kikai: Persona
Through July 2nd
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011


Marc said...

Interesting to read your comments about the installation. It seems to me a strange oversight to not have had the captions placed next to the images. Having spoken to Kikai about this before, he sees the captions as forming an integral part of each work and particular attention has been paid to the translation into english. It also seems a missed opportunity to not show more images in grids or rows, as I agree that the impact of this series grows as the images accumulate.

Polina said...

I recently came across another blog post that featured Hiroh Kikai's new exhibit at the Yancey Richardson gallery, which was also a great review of his work. (
I have to go check him out!