JTF (just the facts): Published in 1999 by Steidl (here). Unpaginated, with 79 black and white images. There is a list of previous exhibitions, but no essays or text. The images were taken between 1983 and 1997. (Cover shot at right.)
Comments/Context: After reading our book review of Naoya Hatakeyama’s Lime Works, Mark Feustel (of Studio Equis (here) and Eyecurious (here)) took a look through our collection site and sent us a note with further information on Hatakeyama and a recommendation to explore the work of Ryuji Miyamoto. While we weren’t aware of Miyamoto’s different projects, we liked what we saw in a quick search, and so we went out and purchased this book as background to educate ourselves more fully about his images.
Miyamoto’s early works chronicle the destruction and disintegration of architecture, all over the world. The images are filled with broken windows, twisted cables, pipes and steel framing, piles of rubble, scaffolding, broken bricks and concrete, peeling paint, and abandoned rooms being invaded by weeds. Some of the buildings have been left to ruin, collapsing under their own weight, while others are being actively destroyed, likely making room for something fresh and new.
While Miyamoto has captured these decaying buildings in Berlin, Vienna, New York, Brussels, Penang, Hong Kong, and all over Japan, it is the images he made of the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in 1995 that are the most haunting. In these pictures, the ground has clearly heaved up, toppling the buildings in on each other, narrow alleyways made even tighter by listing walls, piles of wreckage and tangled electrical wires. Miyamoto’s pictures are generally devoid of people, and many of the Kobe images have a dense interaction of staggered lines and planes, creating complex quiet abstractions out of the chaos. What is perhaps most surprising is just how striking some of these scenes of destruction can be.
Collector’s POV: Ryuji Miyamoto is represented by Taro Nasu Gallery in Tokyo/Osaka (here) Kicken Berlin (here) and Michael Hoppen Contemporary (here) in London. A few of Miyamoto’s works have recently come into the secondary markets, but not enough to have any pricing pattern. Many of his photo books have also become quite valuable.
I think these images have particular resonance with many of the New Topographics photographers of the 1970s, with Gordon Matta-Clark’s works, and with Ray Mortenson’s images of the abandoned South Bronx in the 1980s. There is also a connection to Osamu Kanemura’s thickly wired city scenes. Overall, these works would certainly fit well into our collection and merit some further exploration.