The Minneapolis Institute of Art presents Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States.
On view until 22 July 2018, the exhibition will feature works from the last three decades of Naoya Hatakeyama’s practice. Art Radar profiles the artist on the occasion of this survey show.
Naoya Hatakeyama’s work probes the relationship between nature, cities, and representation. The artist still shoots on film and uses photography to explore the growth and decline of cities in Japan, tracing the way human intervention transforms nature into built environment, and its evolution over time. For the past thirty years, Hatakeyama has undertaken a photographic examination of the life of cities, the built environment and the dramatic convergence of nature and urbanisation.
Hatakeyama was born in 1958 in the Iwate Prefecture, Japan. A student of Kiyoji Otsuji (one of the most important photographers and educators in post-1945 Japan), Hatakeyama completed graduate studies at Tsukuba University in 1984. Since then, he has been based in Tokyo, which has served as a muse for his work. In 2001, he co-represented Japan in the 49th Venice Biennale of Art, and was given his first solo museum exhibition outside of Japan at Kunstverein Hannover, Germany, in 2002. A decade later, he joined the architect Toyo Ito and others in creating the Golden Lion award-winning exhibition “Architecture. Possible Here? Home-for-All” to represent Japan in the 13th Venice Biennale of Architecture.
Hatakayema discussed his early influences, education and the relationship between his work and painting in an interview with Asia Society in 2015:
Some of those who are attracted to photography unconsciously come to the medium from such fields as film, painting, literature, contemporary art (after post-minimalism), and in recent years, computer games. In my case, an entrance to the medium was painting. From the beginning I felt close to the style where a single piece of work was hung on the wall.
There are numerous people and artists who have impacted me. At the beginning of my career as an artist, I was influenced by the idea of avant-garde art through Professor Kiyoji Otsuji.
Recently, his work was included in the exhibition and publication “In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11”, organised by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Hatakeyama has received numerous awards in Japan, starting with the 22nd Kimura Ihei Photography Award in 1997, and most recently the 2015 Medal for Honor with Purple Ribbon (awarded by the Government of Japan for his artistic achievement). The artist is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Tokyo University of the Arts, and lives and works in Tokyo.
At the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), Hatakeyama’s show, entitled “Excavating the Future City”, consists of thirteen of the artist’s photo series, representing nearly 100 works created over the past three decades. Seven of these works have been acquired by Mia for its permanent collection.
The exhibition has been organised by Yasufumi Nakamori, curator and head of the Department of Photography and New Media at MIA. Of the show’s scope and thematic development, he commented:
Mia is proud to organise an exhibition of such breadth with a critical theme, revealing the evolution of Naoya Hatakeyama’s work. Thematically, Hatakeyama has always studied the intersection of nature and urbanization – notions of construction, change, destruction, and rebirth. But as his practice progresses, signs of a subtle yet growing vulnerability – a movement from conceptual documentarian to participant – become visible.
Hatakeyama’s images range from close-ups of limestone quarried by explosive blasts to bird’s-eye views of cities from above, and the recovery and reconstruction efforts in the artist’s tsunami-swept hometown in northeastern Japan. Each tightly composed image captures phases of creation, change, and transformation over time in Japan’s contemporary topographies.
Each of his series focuses on a different facet of the growth and transformation of the urban landscape—from studies of architectural maquettes to the extraction and use of natural materials such as limestone, as it is quarried via explosive blasts and subsequently incorporated into the construction of new buildings.
In 1986, Hatakeyama began photographing limestone quarries, one of the only natural resources of Japan, with his series Lime Hills. The images, which depict Japanese landscapes amid excavation, challenge notions of beauty and industrial impact.
In particular, Hatakeyama has routinely returned to the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolis, exploring this ever-evolving urban sprawl from both below and above, mapping the growth and expansion of these sites over time. Hatakeyama examines not only the visible Tokyo, constructed largely by limestone, but the invisible underground Tokyo made of underground tunnels and the Shibuya River, literally taking us deeper into the story of human construction.
The quarries and the cities are like negative and positive images of a single photograph,
Additional series focus on other forms of human intervention with the landscape and natural materials, including factories and building sites in Japan and abroad.
Finally, his most recent and most personal series is photographs of his hometown of Rikuzentakata, a fishing town that was almost completely destroyed by the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. These works are part of an ongoing series that records the tsunami’s devastating aftermath, begun almost immediately following the disaster. The photographs hauntingly embody the death and rebirth of the city, manifesting a deeply personal connection to the ongoing intersection of geology, architecture, and time. On the disaster’s impact upon his practice, the artist comments:
It has changed the way I think about time and history.
I believe that the tragedy has increased among many the awareness that it is important to produce their own art in the process, in addition to the conventional attitude of observing or receiving art made by others.
Although usually devoid of people, the photographs document the grand narrative of humanity’s interaction with the environment. Where early works suggest the hubristic pursuit of human’s dominance over nature, the later series of post-tsunami Rikuzentakata (2011) reminds us of the powerful and unpredictable impact of natural forces over human constructions. In many ways, his works are to be situated within the tradition of the Sublime landscape – depicting as they do awe-inspiring scenes that are so far beyond either human or domestic scale.
Naoya Hatakeyama’s photographs depend on this sense of precarity: as if walking a tightrope, they function on the infrathin boundary between natural catastrophe and human creation.
“Excavating the Future City: Photographs by Naoya Hatakeyama” is on view from 4 March to 22 July 2018 at the Harrison Photography Gallery, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404, USA.
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