Expression Beyond Documentation: Japanese Post-War Photography
When we talk about contemporary art, what comes to mind for many are artworks that can be observed first-hand in art museums, galleries, or large-scale festivals. However, not all artworks can be collected, exhibited, and observed. Performance art, for example, underscores the infectious power of the moment, making it difficult to replicate. Fortunately, many such works have been recorded through photography, ensuring they are not lost to oblivion. We are thus still able to encounter the flourishing artistic environment of post-World War II Japan and its far-reaching impact, even though many decades have passed.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, Japanese society underwent a dramatic transformation in the wake of the war: the natural environment suffered, the economy skyrocketed, and social movements burned red-hot, all stimulating profound contemplation on the part of the nation’s artists. Through a variety of art forms, they began to explore the relationships between the individual and society and between lifestyle and the material world. M+’s collection of Japanese post-war art photography is testament to the artistic development of that moment. M+ Associate Curator of Visual Art Isabella Tam outlines how these post-war Japanese photographic artists reflected on tradition, examined themselves, and transformed their creative approaches.