Hiroshi Takizawa, AVALANCHE

JTF (just the facts): Self published in 2017 (no direct link; available from various booksellers). Softcover, 32 pages, with 16 black and white photographs. No edition size information is provided. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: The Japanese contemporary photographer Hiroshi Takizawa has spent most of the past decade obsessively exploring the nature of photographic texture. Starting with images of rocks, concrete, gravel, and other construction materials, he has iteratively photographed and rephotographed these surfaces, using layers and manipulations to transform stone into something much more malleable. Ultimately printing his final images out on various forms of paper and vinyl, he has proceeded to twist, crumple, and gather these pictures into sculptural reliefs and objects, physically repurposing the originally hard textures and conceptually rethinking the image/object duality inherent in photography.

In his newest self-published photobook, Takizawa unravels the idea of physical texture in a different way. Beginning with found images of rocky mountain ranges, their dark peaks and valleys covered in white snow, he has pulled them through the distorting eye of a scanner again and again, turning the high contrast black and white images into stuttering digital smears. The visual effect is something like an avalanche, where the mountains thunderingly fall away into the tumbling chaos of abstraction.

By orienting the skyline vertically (and to the side), Takizawa upends our assumptions about what mountains are supposed to look like. So when the images dissolve, they don’t necessarily follow the usual laws of gravity or fall “down” – the jagged jittering moves left and right, up and down, in unpredictable sweeps of motion and direction.

A closer look reveals that Takizawa is also stopping and starting repeatedly, creating mirrors, echoes, and repetitions of the original images that are then shimmered into the tiny striations of digital residue. The works in AVALANCHE are actually printed full spread, but that’s hard to see, at least initially, as the book is saddle stitched. This divides each picture (except the one in the very middle) into two equal parts, which are then assembled with other mismatched halves by the simple act of binding. So the page turns reveal pairs of images that do not converge, further enhancing the sense of overall disruption.

Part of what Takizawa is showing us is just how fast representation breaks down into abstraction. A few images seem to recall the gestural sharpness of Clyfford Still, while others depict otherworldly topographies that seem to have no obvious antecedent. These rocky mountaintops have been riven by digital earthquakes of such force and energy that they are reduced to digital rubble in the space of a single frame. But these artistic tremors deliver their own kind of quivering beauty, albeit within the context of the complete destruction of the recognizable world. They twist and extend photographic texture like salt water taffy, mimicking geological violence but delivering that wholesale melting with unexpected subtlety.

This single subject photobook has the feel of an informal zine, and will, as a result, be overlooked by many. But not every artistic idea requires 50 or 100 images to fully explore its depths. While Takizawa could likely have made another several dozen of these works, experimenting with even more variations of shifts and realignments, the tightly edited group presented in AVALANCHE is enough – it both introduces the central idea and gives us just enough examples to understand its edges. More would have made it thicker, but no more powerful, and that economy of vision is worth celebrating. AVALANCHE is effective as a photobook precisely because it doesn’t try to do too much. It shows us that Takizawa is continuing to extend his textural thinking in new directions, offering us compelling evidence of his ongoing innovations without trying to impress us with flashiness or excess.

Collector’s POV: While Hiroshi Takizawa has participated in various group and solo shows, he does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As such, collectors interested in following up should likely do so directly via the artist’s website (linked in the sidebar).

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