Fifty-Three Stations, 1983-1986
January 24 - March 20, 2004
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition, Toshio Shibata -“Fifty-Three Stations, 1983-1986”. “Fifty-Three Stations” premiers the early night photographs from Japan’s preeminent landscape photographer, Toshio Shibata, featuring photographs taken in the United States and Japan. The series takes its name in reference to Hiroshige Ando’s famous “53 Stations of Tokaido,” a series of woodblock prints completed in the 1830’s documenting life along the road between Tokyo and Kyoto. Shibata’s night photographs along the highways of Japan and the United States expose a world interconnected through the elegant moods of the road. Taken between 1983-1986, these early photographs are a key transition moment for one of Japan’s most important contemporary photographers, revealing the roots of Shibata’s distinctive aesthetic.
In 1983, after returning to Japan from a few years of traveling and living in Europe, Toshio Shibata began photographing night scenes of roadside Japan. Shibata has said of the experience of the road at night; “While driving on a highway at night in Europe I often experienced an imperceptible momentary sensation of transcending place, yet not knowing where I was. It seemed as if I could have been in Japan, or even in the United States. I felt that the scene was non-specific, but rather a kind of generic or archetypal common scene, universal image and part of a global world-view.”
The images of “Fifty-Three Stations” reveal anonymous toll-booths, vacant roadsides, and brightly lit gas stations and hotels. Out of the darkness of a highway at night appear subtle signs in Japanese or English, hinting at the places Shibata has traveled upon in this nocturnal journey. Beyond the specificity of Hiroshige’s “53 Stations”, Shibata’s series exhibits a global roadway where these signs and spaces are interconnected and equal. While making references to Hiroshige, as well as great American road photographers such as Robert Frank, the face of Shibata’s roadway remains anonymous. Our only points of reference are a vague sense of place, for Shibata less wants to reveal distinct places than the interwoven, indifferent roads of an emerging global world. Such ambiguity of the landscape has remained a key component of Shibata’s aesthetic.
Shibata’s photographs expand from a preliminary interest in the road; his recent work concentrates on the anonymous hand of man intervening in the natural landscape. “Fifty-Three Stations” is the root of a photographic record Shibata has pursued for over twenty years. Within these nocturnal roadways he first discovers those structures that form the bedrock for life in the modern world, as our civilization continually pushes outward. This early body of work, never previously exhibited, allows the viewer to find the core of Shibata’s aesthetic and his interest in global concerns of landscape, not tied solely to that of his homeland.