January 21 – February 24, 2018
Opening reception: Sunday, January 21, 2018
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Photorealism emerged in the early 1970s alongside photo-conceptualism, both employing the camera as a tool for making art. Photography has since developed from an economy of scarcity, dependent on specialized equipment and technical expertise that imposed some minimal limits on image production, to a condition of surplus or even glut, with “more pictures taken in the last year than in the prior history of photography,” as was claimed sometime after the introduction of the camera phone. In her first one-person exhibition at As Is, Takako Yamaguchi presents a body of photorealist paintings that accepts these new conditions and proceeds accordingly.
Each of the nine medium-sized, oil on canvas paintings on view features an image of the artist wearing (or modeling, or perhaps even performing in) pieces of her own clothing—skirt, blouse, coat, dress, etc.—selected according to criterion that seem deliberate but are not immediately apparent. The images are tightly cropped. Always, it is the clothing that predominates, with patches of skin, where evident at all, relegated to the paintings’ outer edges. Indeed, it may not be the garment but rather the fabric from which it is fashioned that is Yamaguchi’s primary object of study. If so, she would be participating in the characteristically modernist dialogue between a work of art and its material conditions when, as they sometimes do, the painted threads of her representation align with the physical threads of its gessoed canvas substrate at a scale of 1:1.
Skill figures prominently in debates about photorealism, and understandably so. But focusing on that one feature shouldn’t come at the expense of time and labor, two issues that may well mark the difference between this artist’s version of photorealism and that of her predecessors. With the industrial economy and its factory system an artifact of the past, and with “just-in-time production” and “at-will employment” substituted in its place, the conspicuous expense of time and labor Yamaguchi devotes to her paintings means something different now. This is perhaps what Gyorgy Kepes was getting at when he reversed the chronological order of their development and characterized painting as “photography in slow motion.” Yamaguchi concurs, and slows it down just a little bit more.