Comments/Context: Toshio Shibata doesn't come from the cherry blossom in springtime school of Japanese landscape photography. His interest lies the intersection of the man-made and the natural, not so much the harsh contrasts of the American New Topographics photographers but something more tightly integrated and humanized. Paired with the geometric abstractions of Toeko Tatsuno in this back and forth show, his eye for linear pattern and sculptural form comes through even more clearly.
Stone retaining walls, concrete spillways, landslide nets, and reservoir dams are the main characters in Shibata's natural drama. Patchwork combinations of bricks, squares, and herringbone patterns dot the hillsides, intermixed with scrubby greenery and erosion mediating trees. His waterscapes turn man-made waterfalls into flat curtains of flowing white, adding an element of passing time to his images; concrete blocks and other debris bob in swirling eddy pools and at the bottom of still runoff areas. Whether using the girders of a bridge or the edge of a waterfall, Shibata manages his lines and angles with precision, seeing landscape as rigid structure, even when it is a line of trees or the rusty residue falling from a drainpipe.
Toeko Tatsuno's blocky stacks and ladder-like bookcase forms provide an insightful foil for Shibata's focus on man-made abstraction. In this context, his compositions resolve even further into systems of line, a rope of buoys becoming a graceful arc and a tethered net turning into an obtuse triangle. Shibata's landscapes depict this strict human-imposed order not as ugliness or interference, but as something graceful and well-integrated, finding harmony where others have found dissonance.
Collector's POV: The Shibata photographs in this show are priced between $3500 and $25000, based on size and place in the edition. His prints have not developed a consistent presence in the Western secondary markets; only a handful of lots have come up for recent public sale, fetching prices between $1500 and $7500, but these prices may not be entirely representative of the broader market for his work. As such, gallery retail may be the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)