Kenro Izu

Mono no Aware

Nov 24, 2021 - Jan 21, 2022
PGI

Kenro Izu

Mono no Aware

Nov 24, 2021 - Jan 21, 2022
PGI

  • ©Kenro Izu

  • ©Kenro Izu

  • ©Kenro Izu

  • ©Kenro Izu

  • ©Kenro Izu

  • ©Kenro Izu

  • ©Kenro Izu

PGI is pleased to announce Mono no Aware, Kenro Izu’s first exhibition at our gallery.

 

In 1971, Kenro Izu left Japan for New York at the age of 21. He has spent the last 50 years simultaneously running a commercial photography studio there and documenting human dignity and worship in stunning platinum prints made using a 14×20 inch ultra-large format camera. After his first visit to Egypt in 1979 he became attracted to that which transcends human understanding, leading to a photographic pursuit of sacred places and ancient stone monuments around the world. Upon his visiting Cambodia for the first time in 1993, the massive scale and unique atmosphere of Angkor Wat immediately registered with him as a “special place” which he would spend seven years photographing. He next turned his gaze to the inner sanctuaries of the people of Bhutan in 2003 and later to the unwavering faith of the peoples living in India’s Ganges Valley.

 

After a lifetime of photographing spirituality and sacred places across the globe, Izu’s latest effort, Mono no Aware, is his first major effort in his home country of Japan. It is a delicate exploration of the Japanese aesthetic notions of wabi-sabi and mono no aware comprised of natural light still lifes of Noh masks, ancient iwakura (god stones), scenery from late-period shrines and photographs of neglected roadside flowers made near his home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

 

As an artist whose interests progressed from sacred places to the worshippers who visit them and later to inner spiritual sanctuaries, it seems only natural that he would sense “a deep and alluring spirituality” emanating from Noh masks upon encountering them. Noh theater is a traditional Japanese performance art with a history of over 650 years–the longest in the world. Perhaps one of its most impressive aspects is that along with the scripts and production methods, the same masks and costumes used in the earliest performances have been passed down through countless generations.

 

While Izu had reservations about photographing completed works of art, this did not hinder him in capturing the essence of the haunting masks, from their seductive luster created by centuries of restoration to the chips and cracks accumulated over long years of use. The masks feel imbued with the emotions of their previous owners, and by spending time alone with each one he has managed to reveal their souls flawlessly.

 

This exhibition will contain approximately twenty-five silver gelatin prints.

 

The concept of mono no aware has long been ingrained in Japanese culture. The term was widely used between the Heian and Kamakura periods to acknowledge the transience of nature and the subtleties of life. An appreciation for the beauty of impermanence, be it the passing of the seasons or of life, was a popular theme in waka poetry, and had been refined through the ages centrally among the aristocracy of the times.

 

I first became passionate and interested in photographing Noh masks after visiting the Museum of Noh Artifacts, Sasayama in Hyogo Prefecture several years ago.

 

Those Noh masks, passed down for countless generations beginning in the medieval ages, seemed to be imbued with the emotions of those who have cared for them (primarily Noh actors), the spirit of their carvers and, most of all, the shunen (tenacious spirit) of the characters within the plays who have been performed by various actors for hundreds of years. From them I sensed a deep and alluring spirituality.

 

For over 600 years the minimalist aesthetics of ethereal Noh plays, along with the idea of wabi-sabi, have become synonymous with Japanese culture. Yet I had nearly turned seventy before I finally discovered an appreciation for the art itself and its masks.

 

Viewed up close, each mask tells its life story. The glaze of some masks gives off a seductive luster, while others have chipped paint revealing the wood underneath—some to a frightening degree—or even a granular surface texture caused by the repeated application of restoration agents.

 

While photographing the Noh masks in the soft light passing through the shoji doors of a traditional Japanese room was exquisite work, I also couldn’t shake the nerve-wracking feeling that they were peering into my soul the entire time. After that experience the phrase “to see is to be seen” has taken on a new meaning for me. As the shooting progressed, I also began to notice that each beautiful mask also possessed a quality of pathos.

 

In addition to Noh masks, this series Mono no Aware also features still photographs of flowers of fields that receive no attention, ancient iwakura (god-stones), and spiritual sanctuary surrounding some shrines of later periods. It is my attempt to interpret the true beauty of evanescence.

 

4 October, 2021

Kenro Izu

 

 

 

【Related the 50th anniversary exhibition】

◾️Roonee 247 Fine Arts    KENRO IZU  JOURNEY WITHOUT A MAP

    November 23 – December 5, 2021

  https://www.roonee.jp

 

◾️iwao gallery    KENRO IZU  JOURNEY WITHOUT A MAP

 November 17 – 28, 2021   closed on Mon. Tue

  https://iwaogallery.jp

 

 

Kenro Izu

Born in Osaka, Japan in 1949. Izu studied at the Nihon University College of Arts, Tokyo, prior to moving to NYC in 1971, where he has since lived and worked. For more than thirty years, Izu has been photographing sacred places with 14×20-inch large format camera to create platinum print which render the subtle nuance and capturing the spirituality of the sacred place.

A visit to Angkor Wat in 1993 made Izu aware of the outstanding number of victimized children struggling with the consequences of Cambodia’s vast minefields. This awareness led Izu to establish a free hospital for children in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and to found the nonprofit organization Friends Without A Border in 1996, that funds medical treatment and healthcare programs for disadvantaged children and their families in Southeast Asia.

Izu’s works are collected by major museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and many other museums around the United States. His works has been published in 17 books, including Seduction in 2017, Eternal Light in 2018, Requiem in 2020, and Fuzhou -the forgotten land in 2021 .