In Praise of Shadows

The title of this exhibition is taken from the book of the same name by the Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki (Tokyo, 1886 – Yugawara, 1965), author of a large, celebrated body of fiction. The idea of this exhibition arises from the photographs of seas, Seascapes, from the 1980s and ’90s, by the great Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of whose smaller-scale series included in this show. Sugimoto’s photos are perfectly apposite to the essay by Tanizaki, whose oeuvre the photographer undoubtedly knows well, himself being an exegete of traditional Japanese culture and a highly refined art collector.

Our exhibition, to a large extent, differs substantially from the uses of shadow expressed in Japanese aesthetics, which Tanizaki analyzes so acutely. There is a consideration of shadow that prevails in the West and which stands precisely in diametrical opposition to that of the Orient. In the West, the Occident, highly differentiated degrees and categories are distinguished, depending on a greater or lesser incidence of light: dimness, darkness, penumbra, shadow, blackness, opacity, chiaroscuro, etc. Just as Western art and architectural are turned toward light, the absolute value in traditional Japan is shadow.