Crafts Gallery, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
National Film Center
MOMAT TOP
Exhibition
Katsumata Kunihiko, Skyline 100280, 2003
Katsumata Kunihiko, Skyline 100280, 2003

Primarily from the Museum Collection:
Unconsciousness of the City

2013.6.4-8.4
Location

Gallery 4 (2nd Floor)

Date

2013.6.4(Tue)-8.4(Sun)

Time

10:00-17:00 (Friday is 10:00-20:00)
*Last admission : 30 minutes before closing

Closed

*Closed on Mondays (except July 15, 2013), July 16, 2013

→ See also Monthly Calender

Admission

Adults: ¥420 (210)
College / University students: ¥130 (70)


*Including the admission fee for MOMAT collection.
*The price in brackets is for the group of 20 persons or more.
*All prices include tax.
*Free for high school students, under 18, seniors (65 and over), Campus Members, MOMAT passport holder.
*Persons with disability and one person accompanying them are admitted free of charge.

Free Admission Days
(Collection Gallery and Gallery 4 only)

Free on July 7 and August 4, 2013

Organized by

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Urban areas and art are inseparable. Besides continuing to be places that inspire expressionists, cities themselves have constituted an important theme of art. At the same time, visual art has played a significant role in the formation of the image of the city. When examining the inseparable relationship between the two, we notice something interesting: as an approach to complex cities that defy uniform comprehension, expressionists seem to have perceived them as strata with vertical structure, rather than horizontal expansion. They have probably had a gut feeling that there lies, just below the face of the city aspiring to order and homogenization, sediment of dreams, desires and emotions of countless people.

As approaches to the depths of the city, this exhibition focuses on three topics: the Skyline at the top; the Underground at the bottom; and the Palimpsest in the sense of multilayeredness under the surface. Ranging through forty-six pieces including paintings, prints, photographs, videos and materials from various places and times, the show investigates the hidden structure of the city that continues to stimulate our imagination.

Underground

What lurks beneath the city? And how does it relate to the world above ground? While historically tracing the cultural and social significance ascribed to underground realms, which might also be seen as the unconscious domain of the city, in this section we examine the expansive imagination focused on or inspired by the depths of the earth.

Hamada Chimei's Catacombs depicts crypts located beneath the streets of Rome and Paris. The long, thin staircase on the left makes it clear that this is the entrance to a strange world. In contrast to this mythic cosmology in which the city and the realm of the dead exist right next to each other, Narahara Ikko's photographs of Gunkanjima, an island in Nagasaki, form a link between the high-rise apartments above ground and the old mines beneath it, suggesting the hierarchal structure of modern society as exemplified by the city and the mining industry. In Hatakeyama Naoya's River Series, a descent to the Shibuya, a river that flows through the city of Tokyo, the artist explores the depths of the city through the technological history of its urban infrastructure. This section also reflects the spirit of resistance associated with the underground using documents related to the “folk guerrillas” who occupied the underground plaza outside the west exit of Shinjuku Station.

Narahara Ikko, Island without Green―Gunkanjima: The Roof of the Shaft from "Human Land″, 1954-57
Narahara Ikko, Island without Green―Gunkanjima: The Roof of the Shaft from "Human Land″, 1954-57

Hatakeyama Naoya, River Series, 1993-96
Hatakeyama Naoya, River Series, 1993-96

Skyline

The word “skyline” refers to the border formed by the buildings seen in a distant view of a city and the sky. Rather than the exterior of each individual building, a skyline is made up of the contours of a series of structures. The contemporary city does not have a clear outline like a walled town from medieval times. With the inundation of urban facilities, the boundaries of the city became increasingly difficult to define. In fact, a skyline is perhaps the only visible borderline. To what extent does this sawtooth form that functions as the city’s surface reflect the hopes and emotions of the people who live there? Let’s consider this as we examine the history of the city since the 20th century.

When you think of a skyline, the first thing that comes to mind is New York. The outline created by the skyscrapers soaring up into the sky functions as a sign for “height” and represents American economic prosperity. In contrast, the Manhattan landscapes depicted by Oscar Oiwa and Katsumata Kunihiko in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 can be regarded as scenes of the city after the myth of “height” had crumbled. They are also a testament to changing perceptions in regard to the skyline.

Oscar Oiwa, Gardening (Manhattan), 2002
Oscar Oiwa, Gardening (Manhattan), 2002

Katsumata Kunihiko, Skyline 100280, 2003
Katsumata Kunihiko, Skyline 100280, 2003

Sekino, Jun'ichiro, New York and Graveyand, 1960
Sekino, Jun'ichiro, New York and Graveyand, 1960

Palimpsest

In the city, congested with an almost overwhelming number of signs, new anonymous expressions arise and overwrite a variety of existing expressions, giving rise to unexpected chains of meanings and conflicts. “Palimpsest” is a useful word to consider this superficial play with signs. The word, suggesting a multitude of meanings, is derived from the ancient practice of erasing an original text from a piece of parchment and layering a new one on top.

The walls of Paris, covered pell-mell with posters, fascinated Saeki Yuzo, just as the graffiti scrawled along the city’s streets held a special allure for the photographer Brassaï. Regarding graffiti as a form of resistance and catharsis for those who were relegated to the margins of society, Brassaï made the countless voices that lay concealed in the city audible. Openings leading to the substratum can not only be found in the walls, functioning as memory-storage devices, but are also scattered around busy areas where people’s emotions intersect. Takanachi Yutaka captures Shinjuku’s Golden-gai district with a large-format camera, detaching interiors crowded with objects and signs as multilayered textures. Here, wild signs that resist the order of the city come to life in a web of living organisms.

Saeki Yuzo, Gas Lamp and Advertisements, 1927
Saeki Yuzo, Gas Lamp and Advertisements, 1927

Takanashi Yutaka,
Golden-gai Street, Bar Maeda from "Text of the City: Shinjuku″,1982
Takanashi Yutaka,
Golden-gai Street, Bar Maeda from "Text of the City: Shinjuku″,1982


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