Counsel for the month ahead.
October 2017

Nobuyoshi Araki. From Sentimental Journey. 1971. © Nobuyoshi Araki.

Nobuyoshi Araki
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
Opens October 26

 
Question: what do photography and bondage have in common? Answer: it’s all about communication! For four decades now, the dauntingly prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki has been shooting flowers, city streets, and especially portraits of women, often topless but rarely fully nude, and usually restrained via a baroque knotting technique known as kinbaku-bi, or “the beauty of tight binding.” His twin interests in sadomasochism and flowers have sometimes led westerners to misdiagnose him as the straight Robert Mapplethorpe, but you are better than such easy analogies—and anyway, when you look closely at the pictures, the upbeat Tokyoite has little in common with the austere New Yorker. For one thing, Araki’s explicit imagery has a lineage that runs through several centuries of Japanese art; shunga, or erotic woodblock prints, frequently depicted women in compromised positions, tied up with rope or else ravished by octopuses. For another, the stateliness Araki brings to some of his bondage pictures coexists with far more personal, subjective, and even waggish styles. Kimonos against concrete, cats skulking through the studio... Where Mapplethorpe was impersonal, Araki is forever present in his photographs, shot with a handheld camera and freighted with pleasure and shame.

Araki was born in Tokyo in 1940, just before the firebombs began to fall. He started his career a bit later than the other great postwar Japanese photographers, such as Shomei Tomatsu and Daido Moriyama, who captured the industrializing capital in a slurry black-and-white vernacular they called are-bure-boke: coarse, grainy, and out of focus. Araki, who was working at an advertising agency at the time, followed their technical example but ended up taking a far more first-person approach. Consider his extraordinary book Sentimental Journey (1971), which he shot on his honeymoon: we see his beloved wife Yoko asleep in a boat, lazing in the bathtub, or just gazing into space on a bullet train, and though each image is quotidian the collection becomes almost invasively intimate. Later he turned to color, and in his floral photography, especially, pinks and reds have an indecent fleshiness. As for the other women, they rarely smile, but whether they appear in gritty monochrome or supersaturated color, in a low-lit love hotel or on a concrete-choked Tokyo street, they are never victims. Indeed they often look straight at the camera, with gazes both vacant and forthright.

Araki still does fashion editorials, shooting Björk and a rope-trussed Lady Gaga, and like many Japanese photographers he puts more weight on books than exhibitions; he has more than 500 publications to his name, collected by his fans with the urgency of rare manga. (Exhibitions can be tricky for him: guards have walked out; authorities have imposed fines.) This fall in Munich we get an exciting showcase of his early work, beginning with his 1973 book Tokyo, which counterposes street photography and unvarnished nudes with a mortifying emotional honesty. “There are too many lies in contemporary art,” Araki once said. “I’m a liar in my work, but contemporary artists tell more lies.” As anyone adept with rope knows, you’ll never seduce anyone if you aren’t trustworthy.

Barack Obama, Dilma Rousseff, and Michelle Obama with Abaporu, by Tarsila do Amaral (1928).

Tarsila do Amaral
Art Institute of Chicago
Opens October 8

It’s been a big year for American rediscovery of Brazilian artists, and now one of the country’s most important modernist painters gets her turn. In the 20s, Tarsila helped develop a nationalistic style from the idea of cultural cannibalism, a deliberate “devouring” of European influences to forge a new Brazilian identity. This is the first major North American exhibition dedicated to her work, which rarely leaves Brazil. Travels to MoMA in February.

 
Liz Glynn
MASS MoCA, North Adams, Mass.
Opens October 8

You may have sunned yourself on her concrete Louis XIV chairs in Central Park this summer, but her new show on technology, empire, and capital, demands that you explore, listen, touch, and smell. Glynn has built a double-tiered labyrinth inside MASS MoCA’s football field-sized gallery where a balancing act of suspended printers and tectonic shipping pallets aspire to render the digital, analogue and the intangible, tangible. It all orbits around a question she asks in Even’s No. 8: “How quickly can progress be destroyed, or gains be eliminated?”

 
Shigeru Ban
Power Station of Art, Shanghai
Opens October 8

Has there ever been a more timely moment to address disaster relief? The Japanese architect and Pritzker laureate’s designs have housed victims of calamities from China to Ecuador, and half of this massive show is dedicated to full-sized models of Ban’s emergency paper shelters. In the other half you’ll find Pinterest-ready renderings of recent works, like that whimsical performance hall built on an island in the Seine.

 
Laure Prouvost
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Opens October 12

Before Britain slammed the door on Europe, this wacky Frenchwoman won a well-deserved Turner Prize for her cluttered installations that explore family mysteries and secret desires. Like so many, Prouvost has now left London, and the now-Antwerp-based artist is producing a new work for the Walker that spans video and theater and makes heavy use of her inimitable Franglais narration.

 

Ferdinand Hodler. Le Jour. c. 1910. Kunstmuseum Bern.

Ferdinand Hodler
Leopold Museum, Vienna
Opens October 13

The biggest show in a hundred years of Austria’s most in-your-face symbolist. Hodler (1853–1918) took a mystical approach to portraiture, and he put a greater emphasis on line than on color; his rigorously decorative later works, often depicting elongated nudes repeated against starkly flat backgrounds, shrieked into the modern age.

 
Camille Henrot
Palais de Tokyo, Paris
Opens October 18

After a summer on an isolated Mediterranean island (where we interviewed her for Even no. 8), the Parisian returns home with her biggest show yet. In this seven-part exhibition (one for each day of the week), she takes an anthropological look at the rhythms, valences, and paradoxes born from routine. Her paintings, frescoes, bronzes, and new videos appear in dialogue with a selection of works by other poets and artists.

 
Famous Artists From Chicago, 1965–1985
Fondazione Prada, Milan
Opens October 20

One of our favorite museums is devoting its fall season to the brazen, madcap postwar painting of America’s second city, which embraced cartoonish graphics just as New York haughtily declared the form uncool. This is one of three Chicago shows at Fondazione Prada; there will also be solo exhibitions of the sculptor H.C. Westermann and of Leon Golub, among the fiercest of political painters.

 
The Arrival of New Women
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
Opens October 27

First the Japanese took over, then the Americans; few rich countries, therefore, have as troubled a relationship with the coming of modernity as South Korea. This intriguing show looks particularly at how women fared before the peninsular war, via fashion magazines, imagery of workers and mothers, and painted portraits inspired by western examples.