last exhibition

68th Street 光の記憶 - Yoshihiko Ueda

Weekdays 11:00 - 20:00

Weekends and Holidays 11:00 - 18:30

Mondays and Tuesdays Closed

Entrance Fee 800 yen for over 18

commentary

291, 916: A Japanese Place
Minoru Shimizu (art critic)

“68th Street: Memories of Light” is conceived of as the final exhibition bringing to a close the activities of Gallery 916, which opened on February 10, 2012. So what is the concept behind it?

Back when the gallery opened, I doubt that anyone looking at the name with its three-digit number, and in particular the first two digits, would not have called to mind 291 (1908–1917), the gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue created and managed by Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946). This despite the fact that the name 916 was simply taken from photographer Yoshihiko Ueda’s birthday, September 16. And looking at this exhibition with this association in mind, one can see here and there allusions to Stieglitz, and in particular to his “Equivalents” series. The memories of light of the exhibition title are not just memories of the light shining into a small apartment on New York’s 68th Street, but also memories of Stieglitz, who spent his whole life in New York, or in other words of Modernist photography’s first generation.

In his later years, Stieglitz lived in an apartment in Shelton Tower at 525 Lexington Avenue (at 48th Street, now the New York Marriott East Side), from whose window he photographed some of the earliest skyscrapers that were being built one after another. In 1929, as a space to succeed the old 291, he opened An American Place at 509 Madison Avenue (at 53rd Street, near the Museum of Modern Art). As the name suggests, the new gallery gave American artists an opportunity to show their work, but Stieglitz himself also turned the light and shadow of the skyscrapers visible from the gallery into artworks. The works by Stieglitz alluded to by the works in this exhibition are those photographed from Shelton Tower and An American Place, and in particular the skyscraper series produced towards the end of his life (1930s) as well as the series that could be called its roots, the “Equivalents” series (late 1920s). The “little theater of light” Ueda produced by placing a camera on the floor inside and photographing “the light that reflected off the window glass of the buildings that rose into the sky across the street” references this “grand theater of light” Stieglitz produced by pointing his camera at the “clouds” in the “high sky” that “I couldn’t see from my room” and the huge buildings outside his window.

A distinguishing feature of the skyscraper series is that the picture planes are realized as collages of light and shadow. Because the buildings of the big city are his subjects, New York as seen from Stieglitz’s window automatically appears as a series of overlapping rectangles. The distribution of the squares of bright light and the squares of black shadow naturally depends on the position and angle of the sun and the state of progress of the buildings under construction, which is to say Stieglitz was capturing the passage of time. Simply by pointing his camera outside his window at a particular time, the world manifested itself as a collage of multiple layers.

Contrastive to this is the “Equivalents” series. One could probably say that one of the definitions of Modernism, which arose in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and quickly spread around the world, though in regions that met particular conditions it evolved in various different ways, is that it was a movement that inquired into the pure essence of something and sought to reduce that thing to this essence. In the case of photography, Modernism was a movement that inquired into the essence of photography and sought to reduce photography to its essence. Stieglitz called this essence “the idea photography” and discovered it under the influence of the modern art that appeared around the same time as 291, and in particular the collages of Picasso and Braque, as well as the readymades of Duchamp. Collage is the process of continually renewing the relationship among the layers within a picture plane by adding new elements (scraps of paper, etc.) to an existing picture plane. In the case of photography, taking a photograph is none other than making the world appear as a collage of layers by adding a new frame to the existing world. In other words, the essence of photography lies in framing. The “Equivalents” series is the purest expression of this, a collection of photographs that come into effect solely by reducing the world to a single layer through framing. Based on the condition of a single layer, Stieglitz chose as his subjects the sky and clouds, which are devoid of superfluous rectangles formed by artificial objects. As well, in the sense that they are open to anyone on earth simply by pointing a camera upwards, the sky and clouds have no special significance whatsoever. He also replaced his 8 x 10 camera with a hand-held model and used as his photographic paper a popular product (postcard stock) manufactured by Kodak.

The subjects of “68th Street: Memories of Light” are square pieces of paper. Metaphors for photographic paper, they could also be regarded as metaphors for layers. Through framing, the world appears as a series of collages of rectangular layers, and in the sense that at certain times on certain days the light and shadow are fixed, this series could also be interpreted as a collection of works that continue the work Stieglitz did from the “Equivalents” to the skyscraper series with different locations and subjects. In fact, there are multiple corresponding points between the two, including not only the gelatin silver print picture planes formed by contrasting black and white, but also the beautiful, slightly underdeveloped grayscale (the calmness of the enveloping soft light), the faint radiance of the details giving a sense of the passage of time (the edges of the paper that have become gleaming lines), and the frames with their large areas of blank space. However, in contrast to Stieglitz’s series, in which the light source (the sun) is occasionally photographed behind clouds, in “Memories of Light,” there are no clear highlights, and instead the artist has abandoned himself to unlimited collaging created by diffracted rays and planes of light. In addition, because the rays of light are directed not outside the windows but onto the paper inside the room, and because the subjects are the pieces of photographic paper serving as layers, it would seem that this series consists of a collection of works that are more inward-looking and that have been rearranged more self-referentially. This is because, in the same way that An American Place was for Stieglitz, Gallery 916 was for Ueda a place where he could look back on his own past, as well as look back on Japanese photographers and the history of Japanese photography, in which sense it was “A Japanese Place.”

Stieglitz produced a card that was displayed at An American Place with a message for visitors. On it were listed ten things that were prohibited along with a statement declaring that An American Place was open to all, giving a sense of how proud and unyielding Stieglitz was in his later years. Though “A Japanese Place” is about to close, I would like to reproduce that card here in the hope that in the near future it will appear again in a different form.

1930s. The handwritten message was added by Stieglitz. Dorothy Norman Alfred Stieglitz, An American Seer (New York: Aperture, 1990) p.181.

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artist statment

The tiny theater of light
Yoshihiko Ueda (Photographer/Professor, Tama Art University)

When the weather is fine, at a certain time of day beautiful light always flows into a room of my small apartment on 68th St, from a window on the north side. For about three hours that light will abruptly appear in various parts of the room then disappear, appear and vanish again. Absentmindedly watching the light darting about, I decided to capture it in photographs. Reflected off the windows of the high-rise across the street, it was landing in this room of my apartment. Starting one day, each day I would photograph, tirelessly, that light falling on white paper, and the shadow cast by light and paper. Getting the shots during the day, I printed them out at night. Day after day after day.

Then one day, while staring at the light moving constantly on paper, I was seized by the strange sensation of riding around in a huge vehicle of some sort: witnessing the speed of light moving on paper perhaps gave me a sense of the planet moving.

In any case, every day, beautiful sunlight was dancing ceaselessly on paper in my room, in infinite shades of strength. And, though not visible from the room, high in the skies above clouds were probably dancing too.

Which is perhaps why time spent watching light fall on paper in my little room, was like watching a marvelous show, consisting of light dancing in a little paper theater.

Thus daily I chased light and shadow all around the room, attempting to capture the light of this paper theater on film. If anyone living in the building opposite had spotted me, doubtless they would have been disturbed by what appeared to be some weird, crazy guy crawling around, pointing his camera at a floor with nothing on it, not to mention occasionally gazing upward—having tired of looking down all the time—still clutching said camera and muttering to himself.

And so that is how I chased light and shadow falling on white paper, day after day.

biography

Yoshihiko Ueda

Photographer/Professor of Department of Graphic Design, Tama Art University.
Born in 1957 in Hyogo Prefecture. Recognition for his achievements includes the Tokyo Art Directors Club Grand Prize, the New York Art Directors Club Photography Award, the Photographic Society of Japan Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others.
Having pursued his artistic practice continuously since he launched his career as an independent photographer, he has published 32 photo-collections to date (2016).
Among his most noted series (monographs) are QUINAULT (Kyoto Shoin, 1993), a brooding meditation on the eponymous sacred Native American rainforest; AMAGATSU (Korinsha, 1995), a backstage study of Sankai Juku dancer-choreographer Ushio Amagatsu; at Home (Littlemore, 2006), intimate snapshots of the artist’s family; Materia (Kyuryudo Art Publishing, 2012), images of primeval forest taken on the island of Yakushima; and his recently presented A Life with Camera (Hatori Shoten, 2015), a collection of works including portraits, landscapes, snapshots, and advertising photography from his massive all works spanning more than 30 years.
Ueda’s works are in the collections of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (Kansas City), New Mexico Arts (Santa Fe), Hermés International (Paris), Stichting Art & Theatre (Amsterdam), and Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), among others. He has been producing Gallery 916 since 2011.

www.yoshihikoueda.com

overview

68th Street: Memories of Light
Yoshihiko Ueda

Date : 21 April - 20 May, 2018
Time : Weekdays 11:00 - 20:00 / Weekends and Holidays 11:00 - 18:30
Closed : Mondays ( Except for Holidays)
Entrance Fee :
Adults 800 yen / College students or over the age of 60 500 yen / High school students 300 yen / Junior high school students or younger Free (Gallery916 & 916small)

Talk Session & Book Signing :
21 April, Saturday 15:00 - 16:30 Yoshihiko Ueda, Minoru Shimizu (Art critic)
28 April, Saturday 15:00 - 16:30 Yoshihiko Ueda, Masanobu Sugatsuke (Editor)

ーMemories of Lightー concert :
21 April, Saturday 18:30 - 20:30
Contrabass player : Seigo Matsunaga(Musician)
Planned by : Homenaje Project Executive Committee

Yoshihiko Ueda, the photographs For enquiries regarding
the purchase of the photographs, please contact the gallery.
TEL: +81-(3)-5403-9161 / FAX: +81-(3)-5403-9162
MAIL: mail[a]gallery916.com