Exhibit | Kansuke Yamamoto

Photo: Kansuke Yamamoto.“Untitled” (Boy Lying a Deck), ca. 1935/2015, platinum and palladium prints on archival paper, image size: 33.0 x 25.0 cm, paper size: 40.6 x 50.6 cm 

The son of an amateur Pictorialist, Kansuke Yamamoto (1914–1987) developed and interest in poetry as a teenager. After spending a year in Tokyo studying French poetry at the French Literature Department of Meiji University, he dropped out and returned to Nagoya, his hometown, where he acquainted himself with the poetry of Chiru Yamanaka. An important Surrealist artist who published Ciné, a magazine of Surrealist poetry, Yamanaka took Yamamoto as his protégé. Yamamoto embraced photography as a visual means to communicate ideas. He first began taking photographs in 1931 at the age of seventeen, creating an incredible body of work that speaks to the Surrealist impulse.

Also: Exhibit | Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows

Yamamoto owed much to his father, Goro Yamamoto, who owned a photo-supply shop in Nagoya and cofounded the Aiyu Photography Club, the largest amateur photo-club in the town. Although Yamamoto did not embrace the Pictorialist trends prevalent in the Club and the salon style exhibitions of the day, the exposure to photography was invaluable.

“Untitled” (Still Life with a Loofah), 1930s/2015, platinum and palladium prints on archival paper, image size: 23.1 x 30.3 cm, paper size: 40.6 x 50.6 cm

Kansuke Yamamoto.“Untitled” (Still Life with a Loofah), 1930s/2015, platinum and palladium prints on archival paper, image size: 23.1 x 30.3 cm, paper size: 40.6 x 50.6 cm

Yamamoto pursued the path of Surrealism, embracing collage and photomontage on his own terms. The earliest of Yamamoto’s known collage photographs, The Developing Thought of a Human…Mist and Bedroom and (1932), is comprised of three close-up images of women’s lips, a woman’s leg, a woman’s face, and newspaper clippings about the Great Depression of 1929 and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva of 1932. Through a veil of whimsy, sexuality, and satire, Yamamoto takes on the sociopolitical situation of the 1930s.

By the end of the decade, he was leading the Nagoya avant-garde scene as an influential center in Japan. Yamamoto was a leading member of the Nagoya Photo Avant-Garde, a group he formed in 1939 with leading figures of the era including with Tajima Tsugio, Minoru Sakata, Shimozato Yoshio, and Yamanaka Chiruu. During the Pacific War and until the end of World War II artistic activities were forbidden, and it was after the war’s end that Yamamoto continued to create singular works; working in different mediums including photography, drawing, painting and poetry.

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Kansuke Yamamoto.Reminiscence, 1953/2015. Platinum and palladium prints on archival paper. Image size: 40.6 x 49.3 cm. Paper size: 50.6 x 60.7 cm

A selection of the artist’s most iconic works is currently on view in Kansuke Yamamoto at Taka Ishii Gallery New York, now through May 14, 2016. Included in the show are vintage prints as well as modern works of images reproduced by the amanasalto platinum palladium print studio in Japan under the supervision of Toshio Yamamoto, the son of the Artist and representative of the Estate.

Yamamoto’s works are quietly intense, stark and gripping reminders of the power of destruction and the need for rebirth, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of devastation. Throughout his career, Yamamoto remained a nonconformist, continuously rebelling against the brutal impulses of humanity. He introduced a kind of freedom that few ever truly know: the freedom to reinvent the world on his own terms. In a diary entry Yamamoto wrote in 1941, “Artwork comes out of some disobedient spirit against readymade things of society…. Pure spirit should be a proactive spirit that attracts a new generation…. Rebellion against each generation and the reformation of a generation is our purpose.”

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Kansuke Yamamoto. Stapled Flesh, 1949/2015. Platinum and palladium prints on archival paper. Image size: 40.5 x 49.0 cm. Paper size: 50.6 x 60.7 cm

All photos: © Toshio Yamamoto, the Estate of Kansuke Yamamoto / Courtesy of amanasalto 

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.