Critics’ Picks

RongRong & inri, Tsumari Story no. 2-5, 2012, silver gelatin print, 20 x 24”.

RongRong & inri, Tsumari Story no. 2-5, 2012, silver gelatin print, 20 x 24”.


RongRong & inri

Mizuma Art Gallery
3-13 Ichigayatamachi Shinjuku-ku 2F Kagura Bldg.
June 11–July 12, 2014

Tsumari, in a remote region in northern Japan where Yasunari Kawabata’s 1948 novel Snow Country (Yukiguni) takes place, remains relatively cut off from progress with its late introduction of major roads and train lines. In their latest exhibition, which offers black-and-white photographs shot in this area, the Beijing-based artist duo RongRong & inri offer an intimacy that also evokes the imagery of pure isolation described in Kawabata’s masterpiece. Since “Fuji,” 2001, a previous series in which the artists declared their passion for each other under Japan’s iconic mountain, RongRong and inri have become well known for their support of photography—for instance, in 2007, they established Three Shadows in Beijing, the first art institution dedicated to the medium in the country. Some of the photographs in their current show were commissioned by the 2012 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale and are being shown for the first time in Tokyo.

While the couple still occupies most of the images, the most moving photographs in the “Tsumari Story” series, 2012, show the artists as parents (they have three children). In one, RongRong holds his son’s hand as they look over a wide, idyllic rice field. In another, the naked figures of mother and children look out over the snowy landscape from a cedar bath. In Tsumari Story no. 2-5, 2012, a snowy forest holds two figures standing close to each other in the mid ground—possibly the artists or their children—with faces obscured by traditional woven straw hoods.

The love and intimacy between the artists and their children presented in the “Tsumari Story” series is one that transpires amid a setting of white snow, farms, and forests. It is in the relationship between all the elements—the family, house, and nature—where beauty is found. The couple wholly invests in the belief that their life is inseparable from their art, and with “Tsumari Story,” their art is inseparable from their awe-inspiring surroundings.