September 8 - November 3, 2012
Renowned for his groundbreaking photographs documenting the changes to the natural environment of his native Japan, this exhibition will take particular focus upon the Shibata’s landscape works that, through a measured reduction of the visual field, resonates with concerns of the abstract and the minimalist. Works on display provide a survey of Shibata’s aesthetic development over the past twenty years, including Polaroid, black and white, and color prints of engineering structures throughout Japan and the American West.
Since the early 1970s when he first started his career, Shibata’s photographs have long been marked by an interest to capture within a single frame values that are seemingly at rational odds with one another. Like his American counterparts that would become known as the New Topographic photographers, the inherent contradictions between the organic and the man-made form the ethical dynamics are at the core of Shibata’s works. In a sense, the works in Two Decades detail the possibility of a figurative harmony that can appear at times, however visually intrusive, between public works and physical nature. Without hints of criticism, sluices, and concrete blocks appear more like an extension of the landscape filling a necessary role than appearing as jarring impositions under Shibata’s eyes.
Nature has a specific hold on the imagination, with interpretations of what it might just stand for being a matter of where one may be from. Shibata’s aesthetic is about finding a middle-ground between two ideals. Nature as symbol of wilderness and expansion in the western world is contained within these works alongside a uniquely Japanese notion of the wild as a vessel for the elusive. In the subtly mysterious disorientation of scale that sometimes appears in his work, Shibata urges that the congress between the nature and the man-made may reside in a place of such poetic silences.
The exhibition features photographs rarely seen outside of Japan, including an early Polaroid Type 55 print in addition to one of Shibata’s most recent, large-scale color photographs. Though separated both chronologically and geographically, the exhibition provides a coherent portrait of the artist’s photographic concerns and displays some of the most iconic images from the artist’s expansive library of work.