top コラムExhibition ReportVol.2 Nobuyoshi Araki × artspace AM

Exhibition Report

Vol.2 Nobuyoshi Araki × artspace AM

John Sypal

Nobuyoshi Araki × artspace AM in 2021


1 January - March: Rakuen 楽園

2 April - June:  Haru Kareru  春枯れる (Withering Spring)

3 July - September: July 7th  七月七日

4 October - December: Umegaoka Lovers’ Suicide   梅ヶ丘心中



Combined, and considering the actual number of days the gallery’s doors were open, the four shows listed above cover 67% of all of 2021. They have separate titles but they’re linked by nature of being a phase from a long, vivid, and improbably profuse life of photography. The scope of Araki’s prolific existence is staggeringly vast- I think it’s too large and too varied and too moving and too messy to fit the tiny, glowing rectangles that we filter the world with now.  Art Space AM however, a cavernous room tucked away in a nondescript building on a Harajuku backstreet, is a perfect vessel for his output. 


The gallery’s owner & curator, Hisako Motoo, is somehow able to steer this stream of photography along, continually facilitating installations of Araki’s latest work since 2014. Her insight into his pictures-and her masterful edits of several hundred of his Polaroids at a time- create such experiences that, when making my way up the stairs to see his latest exhibition, I always find myself with an inexplicable nervous sensation. Upon passing through the dark corridor into the main hall I’ve always found myself incredibly moved, and never disappointed. 


At 81, I’m told health and the pandemic keeps Araki mostly at home. Raucous Shinjuku nightlife has been replaced by pills and an early bedtime. Gone now are any of the kinds of pictures he’s known for abroad- indeed, aside from two commissioned series for magazines, there haven’t been many new photographs of actual humans here for some time.  Araki’s physical subjects are stripped away to simple things- to flowers, figures & dolls, and the sky.  With these objects he makes what he calls Paradise in his photographs. Within these images toys and altered figures bizarrely tangle amongst withering flowers. The heads of Japanese dolls mingle with plastic dinosaurs- dinosaurs, a once-minor element of Araki’s older work- are shown here in a perplexing scale. The shifts in size- both in the pictured objects and prints themselves works to baffle a viewer’s expectations. The sheer volume of work shown also plays a part- in between enormous prints of small items there are sometimes hundreds of polaroids in between.


The images exhibited are vivid but are weighted by a strange, sad darkness. A mist of thanatos can be felt in each- something amplified through repetition, scale, and quantity. In each show the weight grows heavier- yet throughout the images sparks of his cheeky humor abound.  Being enveloped by Araki’s world like this is quite an experience- and anticipation of such a feeling may be the source of my own feelings as I near the gallery.


So, here's to many more years of that particular anticipation for Araki’s new work in Harajuku.   Art Space AM is one of those must-see photographic entities of Tokyo- one that I encourage everyone to experience.




それは原宿の裏通りにある何の変哲もないビルの2階の、Art Space AMというギャラリーです。



1月-3月:楽園 4月-6月:春枯れる 7月-9月: 七月七日 10月-12月:梅ヶ丘心中


4つのそれぞれ違うタイトルの展示ですが、荒木経惟の「今」と「過去」が流れている写真の川のようなものが感じられます。Art Space AMのキュレーターである本尾久子さんは、2014年以来、荒木の最新作のインスタレーションを発表し続けています。本尾さんは90年代から荒木の写真集や写真展を編集していて、その展示はいつも素晴らしいです。









来年も、そしてこれからも、いつまでもArt Space AMの階段を上るときにそのドキドキを感じて、荒木の写真を見続けたいです。ぜひこの「AM」を訪ねてみてください。


artspace AM

東京都渋谷区神宮前6-33-14 神宮ハイツ301/302


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