Toyo Tsuchiya. Photo: Henry Jones.

Toyo Tsuchiya (1948–2017)

Japanese photographer Toyo Tsuchiya, best known for his photographs of the 1980s arts scene on New York City’s Lower East Side, passed away in his East Village apartment on November 23, 2017, Brady Ng of ArtAsiaPacific reports. The artist was sixty-nine years old.

Born near Mount Fuji, Japan, in 1948, Tsuchiya studied industrial design at Kanagawa Ken Technical High School before he began to practice art in Osaka, Yokohama, and Tokyo in the 1970s. In 1980, he visited New York on a tourist visa and eventually made the city his home. Commenting on his move to New York, Tsuchiya said, “Everything was new to me. I was like a child. Even without a clear objective. I was busy enjoying everyday life. My camera was like another eye or another arm. I carried it with me all the time, like identification, and documented what I saw.”

The artist was one of the first members of the Rivington School, which grew from No Se No, a Puerto Rican social club that artist Ray Kelly transformed into an art gallery and performance space. In the summer of 1983, the venue sponsored “99 Nights” of performance, which Tsuchiya captured with his camera. Tsuchiya eventually organized exhibitions for the school and spearheaded the creation of its sculpture garden, which was demolished by a developer several years later. Tsuchiya’s work was featured in two solo exhibitions in 1983 and 1985. A midcareer survey of the artist, “Six O’Clock Observed,” was presented by the Asian American Arts Center in Chinatown, New York, in 1999. In his review of the exhibition, Holland Cotter of the New York Times said, “Tsuchiya’s photographs, often pasted together into wall-filling collages, feel like reports of life on another, hipper planet, of which little trace would remain were it not for his persistent and attentive recording eye.”