October 1, 2009

Keizo Kitajima, The Joy of Portraits - Photos exhibition at the Amador Gallery

(c)2009 Keizo Kitajima/Amador Gallery All rights reserved, Courtesy of Amador Gallery
The Joy of Portraits is the the second gallery exhibition by iconic Japanese photographer Keizo Kitajima. Displaying a mastery and awareness of snap-shot street photography’s tradition’s within Japan, Kitajima has come to embrace the potentiality of these methods in an increasingly global context, displaying the technical skill of his forebears while confronting the subject matter of his work as an engaged and interested individual. The exhibition will include work spanning the entirety of Kitajima’s career with images from various series including those from Okinawa, Tokyo, New York, Eastern Europe and the USSR. Having studied under the great Daido Moriyama, Keizo Kitajima’s initial work in Tokyo and Okinawa reflects a similar awareness of the tension between new subcultural impulses and traditional Japanese values. However, whereas Moriyama would shoot from a position of disengagement, presenting jarring, noirish tensions in Japanese visual culture from a structural and disinterested viewpoint, Keizo Kitajima engages with a tenacious curiosity. This is nowhere more evident than in his award winning series of photographs taken during a three-month stay in New York in 1981. Here, unlike Japan, Keizo Kitajima’s gaze is gratified rather than obfuscated. He looks and people look back. During this period, similar to Weegee, Keizo Kitajima chose not to look through the camera’s viewfinder, often snapping pictures at different vantage points, imbedding his images within the plane on which bodies operate. Indeed, there is a certain bodily tactility to his New York images, a degree of contrast and formal diversity that feels palpable and gritty, just like the city itself during this vibrant time. Photography thereby attains an allegorical function for Kitajima. The image serves as visual representation of a place which Keizo Kitajima then enhances through the materiality and formal characteristics of the medium. Similarly invoking both the representational and material potential of the photograph, Keizo Kitajima’s work in Eastern Europe throughout the eighties contrasts with the excitement of his New York work. Here, the photograph imparts a sense of remoteness and hesitation both within the formal constraints of the photograph, the individual’s literal encapsulation on the photo paper, and the reservation of the individuals in their urban settings. Youth look on, interested by the foreigner, while their older counterparts remain rigid, looking from the corners of their eyes if at all. Since the early nineties Keizo Kitajima has also worked in color, creating street portraits and landscapes in the USSR in 1991, right before its collapse, as well as in New York later in the decade. Like his previous New York work, this series lunges out at the viewer, imparting the quickness, vibrancy and self-concerned narcissism of the big city. By contrast, in the Soviet series, Kitajima responds to the dereliction of the crumbling Soviet empire by arranging his photographs from a reflective, ordered point of view. The images are methodical, melancholic and vast, with crumbling, monolithic Soviet and Tzarist architecture surrounding a people as they attempt to function in their daily lives. Keizo KITAJIMA was born in Nagano in 1954. He has won various prestigious awards including the “Promising Photographers” award from the Japan Photography Association and the Kimura Ihee award. His work is the current focus of a major retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Japan and coincides with the publication of The Joy Of Portraits, published by Rat Hole Gallery in Tokyo. AMADOR GALLERY KEIZO KITAJIMA - THE JOY OF PORTRAITS September 9 – November 7, 2009 Amador Gallery is located in the landmark Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street on the 6th floor in New York. Gallery hours are 11 to 6 Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment.

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