NEW YORK, NY.- Miyako Yoshinaga
announced that the Smithsonian Museum of American Art has acquired a large group of important works by the influential Japanese photographer Ken Ohara (b. 1942). The collection will be significant for its representation of a single Japanese photographer's body of work made in the US.
The work, a set of 52 gelatin silver prints (1970/1998) from his "ONE" series of tightly cropped human faces, was donated by Kobe-based collector Setsuko Ono. Ms. Ono has been collecting Japanese photography, as well as international modern and contemporary art, for many years. When the museum's photography curator, John P. Jacob, proposed considering Ohara's work for SAAM's photography collection, Ms. Ono offered to help.
Ohara, who has been working in the US for 55 years, is pleased to have his portrait series, initiated in New York City in the late 1960s, recognized by this major American institution. While being inspired by the book-based works of the PROVOKE group in Japan, Ohara contributed to American photography in his merging of the traditions of portraiture with the burgeoning field of conceptual photography in Europe and the US.
When the series ONE was created, Ohara, just turned 30, was making a living as an assistant at Richard Avedon's studio. On his days off, he would go to the city parks and ask Vietnam War protestors to model for a secret project. Over the next few years, Ohara amassed more than 500 headshots which he printed in the format of a Yellow Page directory. He donated this now legendary self-published book ONE (1970), as well as his "GRAIN" series (1993) - a group of 81 gelatin silver prints that form a mural-like portrait - to the Smithsonian.
Ken Ohara's work has been internationally exhibited and collected. His "ONE" series has become a fixture in photography classes and textbooks throughout the world. Last March, his exhibition "Extreme Portraits: 1970-1998" at our gallery was critically received.