JTF (just the facts): A total of 22 black and white and color photographs, framed in black and matted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space. 15 of the works are gelatin silver prints (14 single prints and 1 triptych), made in 2014 and printed in 2015. The other 5 works are color c-prints, also made in 2014 and printed in 2015. All of the prints (regardless of process) are sized 7 x 9 3/8 (or reverse) and are available in editions of 5; the triptych has an aggregate size of 20×34 and is unique. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: In comparison to a world of contemporary self portraiture that is increasingly cleaned up and meticulously managed, Emi Anrakuji’s newest self portrait nudes seem positively unruly. Weighed down by a brain illness that has impaired her vision and often kept her confined over the passing years, she has opened herself up in these unguarded photographs, laying bare a primal swirl of simmering psychological traumas. She’s brought us along as she searches for herself, and that journey has the sharp edge of anguish and torment.
Set in a gloomy hotel room filled by the bright light of a window, Anrakuji’s images start as exercises in contrast and grain, glare and shadow. Using a glass coffee table and various available mirrors, she has been able to extend and refract the simple surroundings, making a rumpled bed, a hard backed chair, and the tile of the bathroom into a surprisingly versatile stage set. It is here that she poses her thin naked body, the long train of her black hair falling to her waist in unkempt wildness.
Like Francesca Woodman’s performative self portraits, Anrakuji’s pictures probe her own sexuality, but with an even more haunted sense of unadorned desperation. She alternately hides behind sheer curtains, assesses herself in an elongating mirror, plays with the roundness of cherry tomatoes, reaches out with groping hands, and seems to howl with open mouthed pain. A pair of long menacing scissors then enters the fray – will she slice off her endlessly long hair, or worse? In the end, she simply sits on the edge of the desk and trims her pubic hair. The pictures move back and forth: between anxious tension and release, between bold explicitness and awkward reserve, between relative ease and seething despair, between white knuckled intensity and casual nakedness. Her unsettled eroticism comes through in her interest in her own body, and the spectrum of tumultuous emotions that inhabit that frame.
Anrakuji’s newest color works are altogether more abstract. Warm toned body parts are only barely recognizable – a tongue, some lips, the touch of a few fingers – seemingly bent like magazine pages or distorted into featureless skin. The pictures are mysteriously intimate and sensual, and just open ended enough to let our imaginations fill in the details.
What makes Anrakuji’s photographs successful is their combination of sophistication and rawness. Her pictures are carefully controlled and smartly composed, and yet also risky, conflicted, and sometimes claustrophobically personal. In the confines of a single room, she has opened up a dark maelstrom of emotions, pushing herself (and us) beyond the edge of comfort and into a zone of brash exploration.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. Both the black and white and color single images are $2500 each, while the black and white triptych is $6000. Anrakuji’s work has little consistent secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.