Since the late 19th century, Japanese art has been schizophrenically split into yoga (Western-style) and nihonga (Japanese-style). The latter arose as a self-conscious response to the inroads of the former. Nevertheless, when nihonga took up the challenge of Western art, it was unable to avoid borrowing some of its ideas, most notably the romantically inflated concept of the “divine” artist. But instead of Michelangelo or van Gogh, nihonga found its role models in the elite artist/craftsmen of the Rinpa school. The Yamatane Museum of Art’s exhibition What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa? uses 50 mainly large works to look at echoes of the school in the works of 20th-century nihonga artists. Particularly worth seeing is Kaii Higashiyama’s vast seascape Rising Tide and Gyoshu Hayami’s Falling Camellias.
Through Dec 25. See exhibition listings (Ginza/ Kyobashi/ Tokyo) for details. CBL
Metropolis is offering readers ten free tickets to “What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa?” For your chance to see this excellent exhibition, email the following information by Wednesday, December 17, to email@example.com:
1. Name; 2. Address; 3. Age; 4. Home country; 5. Last exhibition you visited
Include the text “Nihonga” in the subject line. Winners will be selected at random.
499: Hunter of Light: Daido Moriyama 1965-2003
498: Pierre-Joseph Redouté: Court Painter
497: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
496: Zon Ito
495: Prosperity of Edo: Hiroshige's One Hundred
Famous Views of Edo and other Landscape Works
494: Happy Trail
493: Girl! Girl! Girl!
492: The Renault Collection: Contemporary
491: Hideaki Uchiyama: Japan Underground
490: Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2003: Human
Beings as Part of Nature
489: Traum von Wien: Graphic Art in Vienna
488: The Sound of Water
487: Shintaro Miyake: Sweet Summer
486: Thomas Demand
485: Neresi? Burasi?: Turkish Art Today
484: Another World Museum
483: Kamakura: The Art of Zen Buddhism
482: The Dignity of Humble People: Jean-Francois
Millet and Naturalism in Europe
481: Araki by Araki
480: Akira Yamaguchi Exhibition Exhibition
479: E.A.T.: The story of Experiments in Art
478: Tadao Ando: Regeneration-Surroundings
477: Girls Don't Cry
476: Gerhard Richter: Survey
475: Kyu Iwasaki-tei Gardens
473: GA Houses Project 2003
472: Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Fantasized Persons
and Taped Conversations Tabaimo: ODORO ODORO
471: Shimabuku Watching the River Flow
470: Space Invaders: Emerging UK Architecture
469: Arts Initiative Tokyo
468: Shinichiro Kobayashi: Japan New Map
467: Henry Darger: In the Realm of the
466: Transparent Windows: Politics of
465: Shinkawa Gallery Complex
464: We Love Painting
463: Wolfgang Laib
462: Emily Carr/Jack Shadbolt: Heart of
461: Picasso and the School of Paris:
Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
460: Under Construction: New Dimensions
in Asian Art
459: Life/Art '02
457/8: End-of-the-Year Review and 2003
456: Elmgreen & Dragset: Suspended
455: Art by the book
454: Art of Mathura, India/The Art of
453: A Perspective on Contemporary Art:
452: Konstantin Melnikov: 1920s-30s
451: Emotional Site
450: Twelve Japanese Artists from the
Venice Biennale 1952-2001
Shinichiro Kobayashi: Japan New Map
|1998, Oimachi, Niigata
In 1967, American artist Robert Smithson
gave an ironic photographic tour of his industrial New Jersey
hometown. His Monuments of Passaic were not bronze sculptures
of famous guys on horses but pipes spewing filth, a floating
derrick, and a sandbox. Now, photographer Shinichiro Kobayashi,
(born 1956), shows us around Japans latest monuments
in his book, Japan New Map.
Decaying buildings and rusting machines in Kobayashis
earlier book, Deathtopia (1998), showed the worlds
second largest economy in neglect and denial. Japan
New Map captures the way the random, devastating aggression
of Japans insatiable construction industry is reshaping
the landscape. Smithsons deadpan irony has been replaced
by sick fascination and dread.
JR propaganda posters entice with scenes of natural splendor,
as if just beyond the fringes of Tokyo beautiful, untouched
rural landscape abounded. Between 1991-2000, Kobayashi traveled
from Okinawa to Hokkaido, documenting the reality: years of
government make-work projects and few environmental safeguards
have left no stone unturned.
Think of Japan New Map as a photographic companion
to Alex Kerrs 2001 book Dogs and Demons.
Kerr quantified the abuses of Japans construction industry
juggernaut97% of the rivers dammed, 60% of the coastline
covered in concrete, 43% of the native forest replanted with
allergy-bearing, wildlife-barren cedar plantationsbut
his book showed nothing.
Kobayashis pictures do. Japans
land of gods has been torn open and sewn up in concrete. Open
pit mines have burrowed deep in downward spirals. Bridges
and overpasses have been built solely to appease transportations
golden calf. Mountainside highways have restrained road cuts
behind concrete girdles. Giant pillars have cast cities in
monolithic objects with the use-value of Michael Heizer earthworks.
In one photo, two red surveyors crosses mark the middle
of an unfinished dirt lane leading into the pitch-black entrance
of a new tunnel buried deep in a Hyogo-ken hillside. The Christian
metaphor may be unintentional, but anyone can grasp the essence:
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
But there are no people. They seem to have used up these sites
and moved on, leaving only an industrial residue that Kobayashi
intensifies with perversely attractive, saturated colors.
Artificial ponds glow an unholy bright green and despoiled
forests bleed fleshy red earth.
This re-forming of the land is like Michael Jacksons
plastic surgerywrongheaded attempts to improve
lead to perverse and pitiable ruin. In both cases, you feel
bad, but then wonder why money continues to be thrown at nonexistent
Unlike MJs nose, many of the concrete constructions
in Kobayashis photos look extremely sturdy. Yet their
purposes are often unclear: An elevated road deadends halfway
through a rice paddy, a concrete streambed is wide but dry.
Theyre built to last, but why?
Location is also unclear. Each picture is
identified only by prefecture and year. The predominantly
medium shots form a jigsaw puzzle you have to fit together
This placelessness highlights the pervasiveness of the destruction
but denies both martyrdom and rehabilitation, leading to shoganai
rather than gambarimasho. Anger (and hope) need direction
to lead to positive action. Shouldnt a good map show
you the way?
But Kobayashi writes that the point is not to ask what
is right and what is wrong. He finds the contrast
between the gray concrete and the complex, beautiful curves
of nature strangely erotic. Kobayashis not an
environmentalist, hes a sex tourist getting off in a
foreign land, one that used to be his own.
Shinichiro Kobayashi: Japan
(2003, East Press, ¥3500)
Available at art and larger bookstores.
Credit: Courtesy Shinichiro Kobayashi and East Press