Exhibition Title: The Incurable Egoist
Venue: Diesel Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Period: 29 May – 14 August 2015
Exhibited series and materials:
Yoko: slaughter, Ravens: Noctambulant Flight, Family, Sasuke, Private Scenes, Bukubuku, Books and Magazines
Curated by Tomo Kosuga
In 1974, the “New Japanese Photography” exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) introduced the world to Japanese photographers for the first time. Amidst the works of some of the biggest names in Japanese photography like Ken Domon, Shomei Tomatsu, Ikko Narahara, and Daido Moriyama, Masahisa Fukase created a sensation by displaying photos portraying his wife, Yoko.
Fukase often turned his lens towards familiar imagery like his wife and family, or even crows and cats, but the questions he was always addressing was “Who am I?” His dignified monotone images depict a vicissitude of unique irony and unending loneliness, and he is known for making statements such as “I kept dragging loved ones into my work in the name of photography, but I never could make anybody happy that way – not even myself. I wonder whether I’m truly enjoying myself when I take photographs?” Meanwhile, other statements like “That I take photos despite wanting to end everything is perhaps my revenge against still being alive” could be an indicator that the act of exposing what lies beyond the picture is directly connected to his own life and death. This restlessness has inspired him as one who challenges the realm of expression.
In 1985, Fukase took part in an exhibition entitled “Black Sun: The Eyes of Four” alongside Shomei Tomatsu, Eiko Hosoe, and Daido Moriyama at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art in England. Fukase has also participated in showings at the Victoria and Albert Museum (also England) and the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (France). In name and reality, he truly is one of the leading figures in the world of Japanese photography. He has also done his utmost to educate the next generation of photographers such as serving as a lecturer at the 1974 Workshop Photography School along with Shomei Tomatsu, Daido Moriyama, and Nobuyoshi Araki.
Just before his 60th birthday in June of 1992, Fukase fell on the stairway of a bar he frequented and suffered a traumatic brain injury. This cruel conclusion to Fukase’s lifelong confrontation with photography also marked the end of all of his creative endeavors in a way that no one could have foreseen. In 2012, Masahisa Fukase passed away without ever making a recovery. The allure and enigmatic aura of the works he left behind have yet to fade.
“The Incurable Egoist,” the title of this exhibition, is also the title of an article written by Fukase’s ex-wife Yoko for the 1973 supplement to Camera Mainichi. In the article, she states that “The photographs that he took of me unmistakably depicted Fukase himself,” showing that no matter what appeared before Fukase’s lens, he was always looking into himself, using his subjects as way of symbolizing the nature of his existence. This exhibition embraces these words as a cornerstone in presenting a selection of masterpieces and rare unreleased work that Fukase was unable to unveil himself during his decades of silence.