I’m not sure if I’m going to do capsule review “roundups” anymore, we’ll have to see. The main reason of publishing this kind of thing is to serve as a personal archive, so that I can look back later and see what I saw, as it were. I’ve taken plenty of notes on shows before but it’s more practical to have them in a digital form, where I can actually see them.
Mao Ishikawa’s show at Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino 1 is excellent, free, and up until the 24th, if you’re around. The highlight of the exhibition is the collection of original prints from her earliest series, “Hot Days in Okinawa.” The story is that Ishikawa started working at a bar frequented by American servicemen precisely in order to photograph the customers. There’s not enough time here to talk about the complex relationship between America and Okinawa, but in any case there is a real honesty, or directness, about these early photographs. Ishikawa interacts directly with her subjects, you can tell she’s just taking snapshots of her friends, and although she also knows that they’ll be historically significant, she doesn’t worry about that too much. She’s a great photographer of sex. Along with the vintage prints there was also a video slideshow, set to funky songs from the 1970s, which I imagine would have been playing around the time that these photos were actually taken. This also helps to keep things light. I’m very happy that the above photo was on the gallery site because it was one of my favorites: it’s a standard “1970s pose” (a group of people all laying in a bed, smoking) but with American soldiers and Japanese hostesses.
The second floor of the gallery is showing an exhibit of 19th-century photographs from America, including a small negative exposed by Matthew Brady of Abraham Lincoln, Civil War photographs and a print by old Fox Talbot. It goes well with Ishikawa’s exhibit, as a view of “America.”