The Madonna portraits by Kenji Wakasugi on show in NYC
Tokyo, January 1985: Japanese photographer Kenji Wakasugi captures the then 27-year old Madonna who was in town to promote her Like A Virgin album during a 45-minute photoshoot commissioned by Playboy Weekly Excite. In the studio there was one flash unit and one pink sofa, nothing else. Transcending typical fashion photography, Wakasugi’s portraits focus on Madonna’s facial expressions and gestures to reveal the superstar’s stunning sincerity.
Wakasugi came back under the Madonna fans spotlight earlier this year when NJG Studio published Adore, a limited edition collectors’ book showcasing the stunning images he created with the Queen of Pop in 1985. More selected images are also included in the just released follow-up book, Adore Volume 2.
Fans in New York City will have the chance to experience Wakasugi’s photography at close range next month, with Ippodo Gallery presenting Synthesis II, their second solo exhibition of works by the Japanese artist, on view from December 3rd to January 7th,
A sequel to Synthesis, his inaugural exhibition at the gallery in 2016, Synthesis II highlights Kenji Wakasugi’s exploration of photography inspired by traditional ink-painting. The show will include photos of Madonna, alongside Fusuma imagery also by Wakasugi, and will also feature individual prints and the limited second edition publication of the Adore photo book.
The Madonna prints will be available to buy in small, medium and large sizes alongside wonderful limited prints and special Dibond options too.
“Adore” Madonna and Fusuma Photography
Ippodo Gallery – 32, E67th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY, 10065
December 3rd, 2021 – January 7th, 2022.
Kenji Wakasugi was born in Osaka in 1941 and graduated from Osaka’s Tokyo Technical School of Photography (now the Visual Arts Technical School) in 1969. In 1996, Wakasugi published his first photo book, My Shangri-La, winning accolades at the 76th annual Art Directors Club Awards in 1997. Wakasugi’s works have been exhibited worldwide, including the Japanese Embassy in Belgium, the Nikon Salon in Ginza, Tokyo, and at Ippodo Gallery, New York.
His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego. A key inspiration throughout Wakasugi’s work is Junichirō Tanizaki’s 1933 essay, “In Praise of Shadows.”
A reverence for shadow and negative space permeates both Wakasugi’s traditional and modernist works.
A student of Japan’s long history of ink-wash painting, or suiboku-ga, Wakasugi uses black and grey in his traditional photography of flowers, plants, and landscapes, to evoke classical painting by luminaries such as Tōyō Sesshū (d. 1506) and Eitoku Kanō (1543–1590). Many of his works show classical paintings on sliding doors, or fusuma, in their architectural setting, incorporating the physical location of the painting and its manmade and natural surroundings into the fabric of the image.
Juxtaposed to works emphasizing traditional styles and architecture are Wakasugi’s images of Madonna, demonstrating a vivid sense of modernity and nostalgia for the late 20th century.
Wakasugi uses an array of modern and traditional techniques to further alter his photography, such as digital manipulation and the application of gold leaf and his ink-wash painting or calligraphy. Emphasizing his range of styles and influences, Wakasugi mounts his paintings using Western-style framing and hanging scrolls or fusuma sliding doors.