Critics’ Picks

William Eggleston, Kyoto, 2001, light-jet print, 24 x 30”. From the series “Kyoto,” 2001.

William Eggleston, Kyoto, 2001, light-jet print, 24 x 30”. From the series “Kyoto,” 2001.


William Eggleston

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art
4-7-25 Kitashinagawa Shinagawa-ku
June 5–August 22, 2010

“Paris-Kyoto” brings together William Eggleston’s scenes from Europe and Asia in the surroundings of a Bauhaus-style Art Deco building set in the midst of a Tokyo city block. The photographs, commissioned over the past decade by the Fondation Cartier, are presented alongside twenty-two drawings. Appropriately, Eggleston’s first museum exhibition in Japan includes a selection of images from his canonical book William Eggleston’s Guide, which accompanied his groundbreaking show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1976.

This exhibition is built on contrasts and comparisons, both between photography and drawing, and among three geographical and temporal points that are triangulated here: the American South in the late 1960s through early ’70s, Kyoto in 2001, and, most recently, Paris between 2006 and 2008. In the photographs, the vastness of rural Mississippi clashes with Paris’s deceptively spontaneous elegance as much as with the textural homogeneity of Kyoto. Next to multiple narratives in the Parisian scenes, the sparse depictions of the refined Japanese city signal visual restraint, just as grainy dye-transfer prints of a Southern plantation stand for a local aesthetic sensibility.

The drawings on view provide a glimpse of Eggleston’s method of locating abstraction in figuration. One of them, framed as a pendant to a C-print showing a trash bag, makes legible the shapes of the discarded containers and tension lines in the cellophane. Since the drawing and the photograph were executed independently of each other, these shared shapes are just motifs glimpsed by the artist in the commonplace.