Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daido Moriyama: Now and Now @Kasher

JTF (just the facts): A total of 59 black and white and color photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls in the North and South gallery spaces and the side alcove. The exhibit also includes 7 silkscreen paintings on canvas and a glass case containing a selection of Moriyama's photobooks. Most of the photographs on view are arranged into three contiguous bands of images, hung edge to edge and pinned directly to the wall, unframed but under plexiglas. There are 2 sets of black and white works and 1 set of color works. The black and white images are a mix of gelatin silver and archival pigment prints, all made recently from negatives taken between 1971 and 2011. The color images are all archival pigment prints, made recently from negatives taken in 2010 and 2011. Print sizes for all three sets are either roughly 17x13 or 17x22. The exhibit also includes 4 larger archival pigment prints, ranging in size from 22x33 to 41x55. The alcove holds a selection of earlier Moriyama favorites, all gelatin silver prints made recently from negatives taken between 1969 and 2001. Moriyama doesn't edition his prints, so there is no edition information available for any of the photographic works on view. The silkscreen paintings were made between 2007 and 2012; they range in size from 43x54 to 43x65 and are available in editions of 3 or 5. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: If the new photographs in this show are any indication, Daido Moriyama is leading quite a jet set life these days. While Tokyo and New York might be expected locales, his destination list goes quite a bit further, to Los Angeles and Italy, Taipei and Antwerp, all seen with Moriyama's signature shadowy grittiness. Like a visual DJ, he has then sequenced these images into linear strips, mixing old and new, West and East, into one continuous, global mashup. The high contrast graininess he perfected in his Provoke days is still there, but his photographic world has now grown larger and more multicultural.

The darkness in Moriyama's images gives the impression that we are traveling through the underbelly of life, so when his eye catches on something and brings it into brightness, it's hard not to be captivated. A tanned back in a shining dress, a blurred baby's face, a feral kitten, a pair of eyes on a TV screen, the edge of a truck tire, they all draw your attention with muscular roughness. Whether its a girl on the side of a bus in Taipei, lingerie in a window in Italy, sunglassed women in LA, or a tangle of overhead wires in Osaka, Moriyama has a knack for sifting cultural signifiers through his own filter, finding the eclectic and the universal in equal measure. There is a noticeable rhythm to these series, with beggars and street sleepers sharing the same space with shining skyscrapers and glorious city lights, a swaying from high to low and back again. His color sequence of Times Square, an alligator, an up-close doll's face, a bloody Christian Louboutin shoe, a nude Japanese stripper, and a bunch of yellow irises mixes seemingly disconnected moments into a surreal summary of modern life, altogether familiar but vaguely unsettling.

The back gallery shows another new body of work - silkscreened Warholian enlargements of some of Moriyama's most famous images. Given their graphic power, the menacing dog, the abstracted tights, and the extra large lips all function effectively in this medium, and the tiny bit of sparkle in the grey paint adds a dose of glamour to Brigitte Bardot posed on a motorcycle. That said, these images are aimed at a different person than a photography collector, and I couldn't help but come away with a bit of a feeling that some of his most iconic images were undergoing a poster shop style dilution.

All in, this show does a solid job of presenting Moriyama's newest work while also providing some background and context to help trace his ongoing artistic evolution. It's clear that his eye continues to be restlessly original, turning increasingly broad and varied subject matter into a brash, uneasy meditation on 21st century urban existence.

Collector's POV: While many of the works on view are shown in carefully sequenced series, all of the images are available as individual prints. The photographs in the three series are either $4000 or $5000 each. The handful of larger photographs are either $7500 or $10000, based on size. The gelatin silver prints in the alcove are all $6800 each. And the silkscreen paintings range from $13000 to $25000. Moriyama's work has become more available in the secondary markets in the past year or two. Recent prices have ranged between $2000 and $40000.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Features/Reviews: Wall Street Journal (here), Animal New York (here)
Through May 4th

Steven Kasher Gallery
521 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

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