Comments/Context: Ryuji Miyamoto's photographs of the aftermath of the earthquake in Kobe in 1995 are so formally pure that they almost make you forget that about the death and destruction they document. Unlike other pictures of natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, tornadoes etc.) which often depict the awe-inspiring chaos left behind by the sheer force of nature, Miyamoto's images of shaken and collapsed city buildings have a sense of orderly disorder, a composed sculptural quality that focuses our attention on abstract patterns in the tilted walls and rubble.
For the most part, these pictures are entirely absent of people, enveloping them in an uninhabited silence, a quiet unreality where the walls are falling in all around us. In some images, the damage seems to have been controlled, where buildings stand mostly intact, except for the strange dissonance of a collapsed floor or a string of broken windows and snapped girders. In others, the destruction is more widespread; entire structures lean perilously, or have been reduced to dense piles of broken concrete and tangled wires. Some even look like Postmodern architecture, albeit with an unsettling disaster undertone. In nearly every image, straight lines have become angles and diagonals: buildings are toppling into alleyways, telephone poles are bent, entire structures teeter on the verge of giving in. The geometries overlap in cacophonous layers, with architectural patterns and motifs repeated and reprised in unexpected ways. What is perhaps most shocking is how beautiful these pictures are, especially when the lines and forms tangle together in a big, chaotic mess.
Collector's POV: The gelatin silver prints in this show are reasonably priced at $3000 or $4000, based on their place in the edition. The photograms are either $6000 or $3500, based on size. A few of Miyamoto's works have recently come into the secondary markets, but not enough to have any real pricing pattern. Many of his photo books have also become quite collectable. Miyamoto is also represented by Taro Nasu Gallery in Tokyo/Osaka (here), Kicken Berlin (here), and Michael Hoppen Contemporary (here) in London.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)