Critics’ Picks

Ciel Tombé, 2007, color photograph, 19 1/4 x 39 3/8".

Ciel Tombé, 2007, color photograph, 19 1/4 x 39 3/8".


Naoya Hatakeyama

Taka Ishii Gallery
6-5-24 3F Roppongi Minato-ku
April 30–May 23, 2008

Naoya Hatakeyama’s latest series of photographs, “Ciel Tombé” (Fallen Sky), 2008, reiterates his fascination with human excavation of the earth. For some three hundred years until the twentieth century, the rock underneath Paris was quarried in order to provide building material. “Ciel Tombé” refers to partial collapses in the ceilings of these excavated spaces.

When faced with images of this unfamiliar, uninhabited subterranean world, the mind only has recourse to the known, built world above to comprehend what it encounters. Keen to capitalize on this, Hatakeyama begins the exhibition with a typical skyline panorama, Eiffel Tower and all, offering viewers a glimpse of the city plunging into the caverns below. This subterranean world is as diverse and atmospheric as the city above. Some clusters of crumbled rock, laid out in geometric patterns, seem inert and are as dry and dusty-looking as the desert floor. Others appear as fluid as a cascade. Lit by Hatakeyama’s artificial illumination, the ceilings’ smooth surfaces glisten like inverted pools of water. The textures and colors are unearthly—one soon forgets that this is Paris—and yet everything depicted is inherently of the earth.

Although these caverns are essentially uninhabited voids, in several images Hatakeyama focuses on man-made structures that support unsound areas of the ceiling. Man intervened once in the earth to create these spaces and then was forced to intervene again to shore up his initial intervention. In one cavern, a broad column of bricks stacked from floor to ceiling possesses the solidity of a Mayan pyramid. In another, an irregular pillar of stones, eerily backlit, exerts a totemic presence. In the midst of these desolate chambers, these structures resonate with the monuments that stand in the city overhead.