Black Sun: The Eyes of Four

Serpentine Gallery 17 May — 15 Jun 1986 Free

150 prints from four Japanese photographers comprised this unprecedented portrait of post-war Japan at the Serpentine Gallery.

The exhibition encompassed and connected ancient Japanese prophecies, the terror of nuclear destruction, and the results of swift and massive westernization.

Eikoh Hosoe (b.1933) was represented by a sequence of photographs from the series Kamaitachi (1969), about an evil spirit who haunts the countryside seeking victims, a myth Hosoe first encountered as a child evacuated from Tokyo in 1944.

The work of Shomei Tomatsu (1930-2012) featured in the exhibition ranged from the distressing images of his Nagasaki documentation of the 1950s, to the student riots in Tokyo in the late 1960s.

The series Crow, by Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012), began on a journey he made by train to the northern island of Hokkaido, his birthplace, in 1976. The birds, symbols of ill omen in Japan as in the West, were depicted in strikingly graphic images.

The fourth and final photographer, Daido Moriyama (b.1938), explored the surface of the city, conveying the relentless visual intensity of modern Tokyo. His was a journey to the urban future, through alleys, wastelands, and the city streets.

The work and approach of these four photographers was varied, but unified by a sense of innovation and a persistent search for native roots.

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