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