Japanese photographer Kikuji Kawada given retrospective at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York

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One of the most celebrated Japanese photographers of his generation, and an artist who has visually responded to his country’s history for more than 50 years, Kikuji Kawada is being given a  major retrospective in New York.
L. Parker Stephenson Photographs will show rare images from Kawada’s early series, The Map, taken between 1960 and 1965, alongside his most recent work Last Things, a series taken between 2010 and 2015.
The Map, Kawada’s early work, was an expression of societal trauma during Japan’s post World War II reconstruction after defeat.
It was described as “a seminal photo book of the 20th century published in 1965 that looks at history through the aftermath of war and the particulars of the bombing of Hiroshima.”
The exhibition also shows images from Kawada’s Invisible City, which explored the rebirth of imagined cities following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Kawada’s work touches on “global tensions related to political fears, climate change and media saturation in the years since the recent natural and nuclear disasters in Japan stemming from the Tohoku earthquake five years ago,” L. Parker Stephenson Photographs said in a statement.
Photo-historian Gerry Badger writes about Kawada: “His photographs are a masterly amalgam of abstraction and realism, of the specific and the ineffable, woven into a tapestry that makes the act of reading them a process of re-creation in itself.”
Now in his early 80s, Kawada’s later work sees him experiment with colour and digital materials, in comparison to his earlier work in black-and-white analogue.
Kikuji Kawada was co-founder of the photographers’ cooperative VIVO in 1957 with Shomei Tomatsu, Eikoh Hosoe, Ikko Narahara and others. John Szarkowski included images from The Map in the Museum of Modern Art’s New Japanese Photography exhibition in 1974.
Since then, his work has been presented at the Barbican Art Gallery, London; Centre George Pompidou and the Jeu de Paume in Paris; the International Center of Photography, NY; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography among others.
In addition to MoMA, SFMoMA, MFAH and the Pompidou, Kawada’s photographs are also found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library and London’s Tate Modern along with numerous museums in Japan.
Most recently, the full set of 88 images from The Map was featured in the traveling exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography organized by and first presented at the Tate Modern.
Kikuji Kawada, Then & Now is on show at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs in New York now. For more information, see here.

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.