NEW YORK, NY.- In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japan was witness to a shift in the response to existing fundamentals previously accepted in modern art. Through the reevaluation of conventional approaches to perspective, form, and memory in the postwar era, artists Norio Imai, Masafumi Maita, Jiro Takamatsu, Keiji Uematsu, Kanji Wakae, and Katsuro Yoshida utilized photography, as well as sculpture, painting, and performance art, to challenge the constraints of these boundaries. The result was a surge of coinciding movements, centering around Tokyo, that radically confronted the reaction to the stark realism so implicit in the postwar years, while establishing photography as a progressive art form.
As Conceptualism and Pop Art materialized in the West, perhaps the first movement in this direction in Japan, parallel to Western manifestations, was the Gutai, active from the mid-50s into the 70s and best known for the emergence of an innovative approach to installation and performance. Norio Imai joined the Gutai Art Association in 1965 as its youngest member and moved from filmmaking onto exploring the fusion of photography, performance, and sculpture with a monochromatic approach to minimalism as seen in the artists series Fragments of Images (1973). By transforming a commonplace object in his photographs, the artist redefined the presence of the objects depicted.
The Hi-Red Center was formed in the early 60s by Genpei Akasegawa, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, and Jiro Takamatsu with the intent of collapsing the dividing line between art and life. In the series Photograph of Photograph (1973- 74), Takamatsu hired a photographer to photograph prints from the artists personal family photo album, resulting in a fragmented narrative that provides an authentic exposure of the world as it actually is also termed as the naked reality. In doing so, Takamatsu successfully disregarded traditional perspective.
Further developing these themes, the movement Mono-ha (translated as School of Things) came to light in the late 60s with the intent of emphasizing the relationship between the man-made or industrial and natural materials. Katsuro Yoshida, a forerunner of the acclaimed movement, silkscreened scenes from city streets. He used color to define commonplace objects, as seen in Work 43 AB-B (1974). The artist considered the significance of the object and redefined the viewers perception of the ordinary by creating an altered state of reality.
Parallel to Yoshidas version of an altered reality, Kanji Wakae explored the relationship between diverse expressions of various mediums sculpture, drawing, installation, and photography. In his series Paints (1973 73), Wakae surveyed the effects of repeated imagery through the employment of halftone printing, printmaking, and photography. The effect was an analytical approach to the act of viewing and an investigation of the pairing of photography and painting. This exploration was also fostered by Keiji Uematsu, who carried on Yoshidas study by incorporating the human body. Tree/Man/Rope I (1973) represents an attempt to depict the gravitational field that connects the viewer and the object.
Masafumi Maitas emphasis on materiality and the viewers experience relates to his peers through light and the motif of water. In his series Natural Line Artificial Line (1971), Maita creates a high contrast landscape that allows the viewer to appreciate the medium of the photograph itself. He disturbs the serene surface of water by silk screening on the photograph, achieving a solely objective work that successfully tackles the study of perspective and materiality present in 1970s photography.