I have posted before about my photographs in the exhibition “No Museum No Life?” at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. (The work was chosen from the collections of five Japanese National Museums of Art.) Having four photographs from Women En Large and Familiar Men included is really an honor.
I’ve been told by my friend Becky, who visited the exhibition, that my photographs are hung next to Edward Weston and across from Picasso. And I understand that two quotes from Women En Large and Familiar Men, one from Debbie and one from Jonathan Katz, are used to context the Nude/Naked theme.
I’ll be able to see for myself next month, when I fly to Japan to visit the museum, and see people I’ve worked with and photographed in Tokyo, the Kansai and Okinawa.
A little while ago, I received a copy of the show’s catalog. The curators wrote essays about the concepts around which the show is organized. My work is in the “Naked/Nude” section of the exhibition. The curator Masuda Tomohiro wrote this in the catalogue about the art. I have rarely received a more thoughtful or perceptive appreciation of my photographs.
The term “nude” embodies an ideal of well-balanced physical beauty based on an ancient Greek concept that rose to prominence in the Renaissance period. In Europe and modern and contemporary Japan, which was influenced by European values, depictions of nudes remained a central part of art for many years. In order to convey this fact, we have taken as many nudes as we could from the collections and displayed them in this room. Our real bodies, however, are very different from the statuesque forms depicted during the Renaissance. If the idealized nude was, as it were, a fictitious body, its opposite is our real naked bodies. You might say that the history of modern art is a history of rehabilitating the nude. Gustave Courbet’s Sleeping Nude is a suitable work to express this tendency. Though the composition itself is reminiscent of Renaissance painting, the picture shows a woman sleeping in a room in a slovenly position. The window in the background suggests that someone might be peeping at her. Here, the repressed desire to look at a nude is clearly expressed.
Since the people who painted nudes were often men and the people who were being painted were often women, these works frequently have been subjected to criticism on the grounds of gender bias. With this in mind, let us consider some nudes by the female artists Ogura Yuki and Laurie Toby Edison. The latter in particular extols the beauty of exposed bodies in a way that was never attempted in the past. When the beauty of a body is captured in its natural form, it becomes difficult to differentiate between naked and nude. The difference is based on complicity between the artist’s desire and the viewer’s desire to look and share aesthetic values with each other.
I’m really excited to be going to see it!