Asian Photography at Paris Photo 2023

This selection of Asian photography was drawn from the booths at Paris Photo 2023. For further background on how and why this “collection” was formed, and the structure of the resulting slideshow, visit the introductory page (here).

This collection consists of 20 works made by Asian photographers between roughly 1930 and the present. Competition was similarly tough to join this group, with well recognized names like Nobuyoshi Araki, Shin Yanigasawa, Shohei Nishino, Eikoh Hosoe, Miho Kajioka, Pixy Liao, and others ultimately left off the team, but the overall “collection” feels somewhat more uneven than the other three, perhaps in terms of the relative quality/scarcity of the available works by the known names. Given the quoted prices for these individual works (in various currencies), the approximate aggregate cost of acquiring this entire “collection” would be $415000.

MEM (here): An egg, a curved scrap of transparent film, a textured ground, and some light are all that Osamu Shiihara needed to create this deceivingly complex 1930s era still life composition. The arced shadows and flares of light pleasingly confuse our sense of the visual reality, pulling layered geometries out of thin air. Priced at €11000.

MEM (here): Straight and curved struggle for dominance in this near abstraction by Yushi Kobayashi. Both the cracks in the glass and the bends of the wire function like mark making, with bright lines dancing and intersecting across the floating composition. Priced at €16000.

Michael Hoppen Gallery (here): This 1950 photogram by Ei-Q (aka Hideo Sugita) mixes surreal cutout bodies and abstract patterns into something vaguely reminiscent of the silhouetted decorations found on a Greek amphora. Ei-Q called his photograms “photo-dessins”, amplifying the ideas of drawing with light and incorporating the chance effects produced in the darkroom. Here the figures intertwine within the circle, interrupted by stripes of mesh. Priced at €28500.

Kicken Berlin (here): Soichi Kiyooka was a Japanese adherent of the German “subjektive fotografie” movement of the 1950s. This booth featured a wall of his small photographs from the 1960s, including this dazzlingly inventive multiple exposure light study. Priced at €3300.

Yumiko Chiba Associates (here): Kazuo Kitai has recently been experimenting with overpainting, adding bold gestural painted marks on top of his earlier photographs (in a manner not dissimilar to what William Klein did a few years ago). This 1964 image has been amplified by a brash red circle, centering our attention on the eye and the clothesline in the picture. The original painted images have then been re-imagined as ink printed editions, complete with bumpy three dimensionality. Priced at €1200.

Daniel Blau (here): This booth featured a darkened room with extra large canvas-printed images by Daido Moriyama. The photographs were originally made in New York in 1971, but have been re-imagined here as warm-toned diptychs, like this one featuring the elongated lines of parked cars. The scale of these works gives them an unmistakeable wall presence, turning intimate street observations into Warhol-like statements. Priced at €120000.

Michael Hoppen Gallery (here): Vintage prints from Masahisa Fukase’s now classic photobook The Solitude of Ravens are deservedly sought after, the haunting images of swarming black birds in murky grey skies creating an indelibly dark mood. This 1973 image from the series is less direct and recognizable, offering a downward view of scratchy raven footprints in the snow. From afar, the angled footprints dissolve into all-over abstract marks, almost like calligraphy. Priced at €32000.

PGI (here): This 1982 contact sheet work by Yoshihiko Ito uses the sequential structure of the film strips to create a shifting set of visual notes. His subject is modest – a single door handle and the edge of door itself – but with iterative changes to the orientation of the camera, he creates intricate angles and evolving patterns. Like Jared Bark’s photobooth works, Ito’s contact sheets rethink how individual frames are arranged, organized, and built into larger gridded compositions. Priced at €4000.

PGI (here): This thickly grey image by Asako Narahashi was included in her recent photobook Dawn in Spring (reviewed here). Made in 1989 in the early years of her career, it documents a veiled view of Sakurajima, an active volcano in Kyushu. The grainy richness and obscurity of her printing process shrouds the volcano in ominous potential, where misty residue might be the beginnings of eruption. A modern print, priced at €3000.

Miyako Yoshinaga (here): In 1970, Ken Ohara made hundreds of tightly cropped facial portraits while in New York, the project ultimately taking shape in the now classic photobook ONE. Two decades later, Ohara revisited some of those images and made monumental enlargements of several, creating his Grain series, of which this 1993 grid of 81 prints is one example. This installation shot doesn’t capture the massive presence of the face as it looks down from the wall; it’s a knockout work that at this point belongs in an institutional collection. Priced at €60000.

Michael Hoppen Gallery (here): After the death of her mother in 2001, Miyako Ishiuchi made a series of still lifes of her mother’s possessions, including this tube of lipstick. The works have an elegiac quality, like ghosts and echoes of a loved one now departed. Priced at €15500.

Ibasho Gallery (here): This work comes from Ken Kitano’s series “One Face”, where he layered together dozens of images from various groups of people into one composite image, from Hiroshima mourners to Hong Kong protestors. This image was one I hadn’t seen before, combining the faces of Japanese butoh, noh, and kyogen performers, resulting in a ghostly white face emerging from the darkness. Priced at €2275.

Jenkins Johnson Gallery (here): This image of female guerrillas in India comes from Poulomi Basu’s project Centralia, which took shape as a 2019 photobook (reviewed here). The wary determination on the woman’s face is what gives this photograph its enduring power, along with the tiny touch of the hands with another fighter. Priced at $7000.

Stieglitz19 (here): The Chinese photographer Ren Hang died in 2017, and although some estate prints have been released to meet the growing interest in his work, a much smaller number of vintage prints remain available. This watery sweep of hair is one of them, documenting a languorously seductive mood. Priced at $6000.

Jean-Kenta Gauthier (here): Daisuke Yokota has been a restless process experimenter throughout his career, and these 2019 images find him playing with color solarization. Plants seem to scorch and sizzle from the heat, antiquities emerge from shadows, and what looks like an enlarged eyeball flares through a rainbow of colors. Priced at €3000 each.

Stieglitz19 (here): Taken out of the context of the rest of the Chinese photographer Lin Zhipeng’s (No. 223) work, this playfully provocative three graces nude might seem too obviously mannered or staged. But when seen in relation to the larger body of work found in his 2019 photobook Flowers and Fruits (reviewed here), this image feels more intimately gentle, with the arms and legs creating lyrical formal echoes. Priced at $1900.

PARIS-B (here): Zhang Kechun’s recent series “Sky Garden” captures massive full grown trees and rocks dangling in mid-air from crane wires. As part of China’s construction boom, they reflect the need for natural landscapes to go with the countless new buildings. Zhang’s photographs make the scale of these trees hard to gauge, giving them a feeling of preciousness, like still life objects precariously decontextualized. Priced at €4800.

Anne-Laure Buffard (here): This confusingly surreal image comes from Nhu Xuan Hua’s series Tropism, Consequences of a Displaced Memory, which took form as a 2022 photobook (reviewed here). The Vietnamese photographer’s image wrestles with the contours of inherited memories, where family members and distant relatives hover in a kind of limbo. The project digitally erases the people from her family photographs, creating an altered reality filled with ghosts and empty connections. Priced at €16800.

Galerie Camera Obscura (here): Takashi Arai’s contemporary daguerreotypes have consistently considered the nuanced consequences of a nuclear world. In this 2022 work, he traveled to a remote Finnish nuclear waste site, documenting the unmarked forest that surrounds and obscures the long lasting dangers that lie within. Priced at €8000.

Fraenkel Gallery (here): This 2023 calligraphic chemigram finds Hiroshi Sugimoto experimenting with gestural brushstokes in the darkroom. Wet and painterly, the poetic mark making feels both controlled and improvisational, following well worn patterns and rules but still infused with a resolutely personal touch. Priced at $40000.

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Read more about: Asako Narahashi, Daido Moriyama, Daisuke Yokota, Ei-Q, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Kazuo Kitai, Ken Kitano, Ken Ohara, Lin Zhipeng (No. 223), Masahisa Fukase, Miyako Ishiuchi, Nhu Xuan Hua, Osamu Shiihara, Poulomi Basu, Ren Hang, Soichi Kiyooka, Takashi Arai, Yoshihiko Ito, Yūshi Kobayashi, Zhang Kechun, Anne-Laure Buffard, Fraenkel Gallery, Galerie Camera Obscura, Galerie Daniel Blau, Galerie Kicken Berlin, IBASHO, Jean-Kenta Gauthier, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, MEM, Michael Hoppen Gallery, Miyako Yoshinaga, PARIS-B, PGI, Stieglitz19, Yumiko Chiba Associates, Paris Photo

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