New York, NY Ippodo Gallery welcomes you Synthesis II, our second solo exhibition of works by Kenji Wakasugi, on view from December 3rd to January 7th, 2021.
A sequel to Synthesis, Wakasugi’s inaugural exhibition at the gallery in 2016, Synthesis II highlights the artist’s exploration of photography inspired by traditional ink-painting. The show will also feature individual prints and a limited second edition publication of the photo book ADORE from his 1985 photoshoot with Madonna.
Kenji Wakasugi was born in Osaka in 1941 and graduated from Osaka’s Tokyo Technical School of Photography (now the Visual Arts Technical School) in 1969. In 1996, Wakasugi published his first photo book, My Shangri-La, winning accolades at the 76th annual Art Directors Club Awards in 1997. Wakasugi’s works have been exhibited worldwide, including the Japanese Embassy in Belgium, the Nikon Salon in Ginza, Tokyo, and at Ippodo Gallery, New York. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego.
A key inspiration throughout Wakasugi’s work is Junichirō Tanizaki’s 1933 essay, “In Praise of Shadows.” A reverence for shadow and negative space permeates both Wakasugi’s traditional and modernist works. A student of Japan’s long history of ink-wash painting, or suiboku-ga, Wakasugi uses black and grey in his traditional photography of flowers, plants, and landscapes, to evoke classical painting by luminaries such as Tōyō Sesshū (d. 1506) and Eitoku Kanō (1543– 1590). Many of his works show classical paintings on sliding doors, or fusuma, in their architectural setting, incorporating the physical location of the painting and its manmade and natural surroundings into the fabric of the image.
Juxtaposed to works emphasizing traditional styles and architecture are Wakasugi’s images of Madonna, demonstrating a vivid sense of modernity and nostalgia for the late 20th century. Taken during a 45-minute photoshoot, Wakasugi captures the then 27-year old Madonna promoting her album Like A Virgin wearing clothes by Jean Paul Gaultier as well as numerous crucifixes and rosaries. Transcending typical fashion photography, Wakasugi’s portraiture focuses on Madonna’s facial expressions and gestures to reveal the superstar’s stunning sincerity.
Wakasugi uses an array of modern and traditional techniques to further alter his photography, such as digital manipulation and the application of gold leaf and his ink-wash painting or calligraphy. Emphasizing his range of styles and influences, Wakasugi mounts his paintings using Western-style framing and hanging scrolls or fusuma sliding doors.