The controversial yet consistent Japanese photographer gets a expansive, if gentle, retrospective at the Museum of Sex in NYC. On view until August 31, 2018. Photography by Dalton Taylor
Highly complex but simultaneously singular, Nobuyoshi Araki (1940-) has built a legacy of sexuality incentivized-but not sexually initiated- photography. The artist has liberated photography from being an obsessive and perfectionist game- having published over 350 photo books, Museum of Sex’s retrospective, THE INCOMPLETE ARAKI: SEX, LIFE, AND DEATH IN THE WORKS OF NOBUYOSHI ARAKI, doesn’t even account for Araki’s latest books, as he’s constantly creating more.
Araki literally works on the principle of unfinished works. If they become too refined, he’s gone too far. The work is personal and intense- women suspended in ropes and tethers, occasional self-portraits, features of intimacy. But it doesn’t feel dangerous. It doesn’t feel violating. It’s an understanding of romance in a new and less sexual way, perhaps contrary to the show’s expectation (and the occasionally raunchy legacy of Museum of Sex). The work is delicate and occasionally surreal, never gristly or truly brutal.
If anything it’s a story of vulnerability on the side of all parties.
The show spans three floors of the museum, with 150 print works, 500 Polaroids, and 400 photo books by Araki, documenting everyone from Bjork to Lady Gaga. With subjects spanning ritual, obsession, and sentimentality, Araki’s public image is far more fierce than what this sensitive photographer actually presents.
It is impossible to deny the political implication of Araki’s work, which faced chronic scrutiny and censorship in his home country of Japan and beyond. At once arrested, fined, celebrated, and awarded, Araki’s complex and beautiful relationship with photography glitched the system that tried to counter him with adamant consistency.
The opening night was a delightful affair with passed Sake and a number of past Araki models and subjects joining in the crowd. The show is a fully formed retrospective and stands as the only exhibition with such a complete selection of Araki work in the USA yet.
On view: February 8, 2017 – August 31, 2018
MUSEUM OF SEX
233 Fifth Avenue (@ 27th Street)
New York, NY 10016